Venezuelan VP: Chavez Still President Even If He Can’t Take Oath Of Office

Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan president, may be too sick to take the oath of office next Thursday, which could plunge the country into a constitutional crisis. But his vice president and designated successor says Chavez will still be in charge even without attending the inauguration ceremony.

Chavez has been fighting cancer for about two years.

The Bloomberg news agency reports that Vice President Nicolas Maduro claimed that the swearing-in ceremony can be postponed and that Chavez remains in power until that happens:

“Opponents of the socialist president, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, are distorting the constitution by saying that Chavez must show up for the Jan. 10 swearing-in ceremony or be declared ineligible to govern, Maduro said last night. The nation’s charter is flexible, and if needed the can set the date, manner and location Chavez will be sworn in for the third, six-year term he won in October by a landslide, he said.”

The country’s law has a significant loophole over the actual timetable for the swearing in according to AP:

“The Venezuelan Constitution says the presidential oath should be taken Jan. 10 before the National Assembly. It also says that if the president is unable to be sworn in before the Assembly, he may take the oath before the Supreme Court, and some legal experts in addition to Chavez allies have noted that the sentence referring to the court does not mention a date.”

Some constitutional experts cited by CNN insist that the swearing in before the country’s supreme court must also occur on January 10, and that that date is “is non-negotiable,” but Chavez supporters disagree.

Chavez ally Diosdado Cabello, who would serve as interim president under one scenario, was
just reelected as National Assembly leader. If Chavez passes away or is declared incapacitated, a presidential election is required to be held within 30 days. According to Cabello, “Chavez was re-elected and will continue being president beyond Jan. 10.”