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Chavez Could Be Sworn in Before Supreme Court, Maduro Says

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez
Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez. Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez could be sworn in before the Supreme Court if his absence for medical reasons extends past the Jan. 10 inauguration date, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said.

Chavez’s health is improving and the constitution will be applied Jan. 10 in one way or another, Maduro said today on state television. Maduro didn’t provide further details on Chavez’s health, or say whether he could be sworn in from Cuba, where he is recovering from his fourth operation for cancer.

“If his permission needs to be extended past Jan. 10, the constitution goes into action and, surely, he’d have to be sworn in before the Supreme Court,” Maduro said after a Christmas Eve mass held in Caracas to pray for Chavez’s health. “In any case, there will be continuity because the people on Oct. 7 re-elected a president and ratified a path.”

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello said on Dec. 18 that the inauguration date was not set in stone. Under Venezuelan law, if Chavez, 58, 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 doesn’t step down, the National Assembly president must determine if the absence is temporary or absolute.

Venezuela will only hold new elections if Chavez said he was unable to take office and voluntarily stepped down, Cabello said Dec. 22.

Chavez Improving

Chavez, who has been told by doctors to rest, is experiencing a “slight improvement” in his condition, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said. The Venezuelan leader has been communicating with family members, analyzing the results of regional elections held Dec. 16 and keeping up with events in the South American country, Villegas said.

“The patient is experiencing a slight improvement in his condition with a progressive tendency,” Villegas said today in a national address broadcast on radio and television.

The leader of Venezuela’s opposition, Miranda state Governor Henrique Capriles Radonski, said today that Chavez can remain the president of the Latin American nation, at least temporarily, even if he isn’t sworn in for a new term Jan. 10.

“If the president can’t present himself Jan. 10 before the National Assembly to take office as president-elect, the constitution has the answers,” Radonski, whom Chavez defeated in the October presidential elections, said on the Globovision network. “Initially, the temporary absence applies.”

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