Dec. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuela National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said today that he would not call new elections if President Hugo Chavez is unable to be sworn in for a new term as scheduled on Jan. 10 because of cancer treatment in Cuba.
“Forget about January 10,” Cabello said on state television. “The people already decided on Oct. 7. The president of the republic is Hugo Chavez and the will of the people should be respected.”
Venezuela would only hold new elections if Chavez, 58, said he was unable to take office and voluntarily stepped down, Cabello said.
Cabello first said that the inauguration date was not set in stone on Dec. 18, and Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Dec. 19 that the South American country’s Supreme Court would be able to resolve constitutional questions. Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales said on Dec. 20 that the court had jurisdiction over issues surrounding the swearing-in of a president and would rule on the matter if asked.
“For now, there is nothing to interpret because no doubts have been submitted to the court,” she said. “The swearing-in of a president and continuity of government are constitutional issues and the court is in condition to rule on any question that is brought up.”
Under Venezuelan law, if Chavez steps down before Jan. 10, Maduro would see out the rest of the current term and then hand over power to Cabello, who must call for an election within 30 days. If Chavez is unable to start his new term Jan. 10, but does not step down, the National Assembly president must determine if the absence is temporary or absolute.
“If the absence is absolute, he must call an election and take office in that period,” Jorge Pabon, a constitutional lawyer and former dean of the law school at the Central University of Venezuela, said Dec. 19 in a telephone interview.
Chavez is continuing to recover from a fourth cancer surgery in Cuba, Maduro said today on state television. Maduro said on Dec. 20 that Chavez was conscious and fighting a respiratory infection.
“His recovery is consolidating with each day that passes,” Maduro said today, without providing additional information.
Information minister Ernesto Villegas urged Venezuelans not to speculate about Chavez’s health, state news agency AVN said today.
“Enough with all the lies,” Chavez’s daughter Maria Gabriela Chavez said yesterday on her twitter account in response to rumors that her father’s health was failing. “We’re next to my father, alive, fighting and recovering health with God.”
The former paratrooper first told Venezuelans he had cancer in June 2011, after undergoing surgery in Cuba to drain an abscess from his pelvic area, during which he said doctors discovered a baseball-sized tumor in the same area.
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