Venezuelan Election Would Follow Chavez Departure, Maduro Says

Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said the head of the national assembly would assume power and call elections to be held within 30 days if President Hugo Chavez dies or steps down before he is sworn into his new term.

Maduro, in an interview with the Spanish newswire EFE, said Venezuela’s constitution is clear about the succession process in South America’s biggest oil exporter. Diosdado Cabello, the head of the assembly, would take power temporarily while elections are organized, Maduro told EFE in a report published yesterday.

Chavez, who won re-election to a third-six year term last October, missed his swearing-in ceremony on Jan. 10 because he remains in Cuba recovering from cancer surgery. The Supreme Court ruled that the ceremony was a formality and that Chavez can take the oath of office at a later date.

The 58-year-old Chavez hasn’t been seen publicly since he stepped off a plane in Havana on Dec. 10. The former paratrooper is calm and conscious, Maduro told EFE. Information Minister Ernesto Villegas Jan. 13 that Chavez’s condition was “favorable” after suffering a respiratory infection that followed his surgery. The government hasn’t said what kind of cancer Chavez is suffering from.

Before departing for Cuba last month, Chavez called on Venezuelans to support Maduro in elections if he couldn’t finish out his term. The 50-year-old former bus driver gave the annual state of the union speech on Jan. 15, announced the designation of a new foreign minister and has called for the military to remain loyal.

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