Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez can take the oath of office for his next term before the Supreme Court at a later date if the ailing leader isn’t fit to be sworn in next week, his vice president has said.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro sent the strongest signal yet that the government may seek to postpone Chavez’s inauguration as the 58-year-old president fights a severe respiratory infection more than three weeks after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba.
Maduro’s position in a televised interview on Friday night generated new friction between the government and opposition over the swearing-in, which the constitution says should occur next Thursday before the National Assembly.
Some opposition leaders have argued that if Chavez doesn’t make it back to Caracas by that date, the president of the National Assembly should take over as interim president.
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s National Assembly is set to meet Saturday to elect its leadership and likely thrash out the country’s political future.
The lawmakers’ vote will be a key political test for the assembly’s current leader Diosdado Cabello, the regime’s number three and a perceived rival for power with Maduro, Chavez’s handpicked successor.
Both men have denied persistent reports of a power struggle between them and vowed to maintain party unity.
In convening the session, Cabello called on Chavez supporters to rally outside the parliament building “to exhort revolutionary unity and head off the campaign of rumours.”
“The official version of what is happening is unsustainable,” the head of the main opposition coalition, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, said.
Aveledo said it would make more sense for the government to acknowledge “the truth” and use it to prepare the country for what is to come.