Venezuela's cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez can continue in office even if he is unable to be sworn in to a new term on January 10 as scheduled, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said on Friday.
With a pocket-sized copy of the constitution in hand, Maduro argued in a televised interview that it allows the president to be sworn in by the Supreme Court at a later date.
"It opens a dynamic flexibility that precisely can respect the fundamental element established by our constitution -- that the president of the republic has been re-elected by the will of a national majority in an absolutely transparent and legitimate electoral event," Maduro said.
Maduro flatly rejected the opposition's position that Chavez must at least temporarily turn over the presidency to the speaker of the National Assembly if his health prevents him from being sworn in on January 10, the date set by the constitution.
The Venezuelan leader is in Cuba where he underwent his fourth surgery for cancer more than three weeks ago, and has since been beset by complications including a severe pulmonary infection.
He has not been seen in public for nearly a month, and doubts have arisen over whether he is capable of performing the duties of the presidency.