Just hours after the Venezuelan government announced that ailing President Hugo Chavez would take oath of office before the Supreme Court (SC) at a later date, the SC President Luisa Estrella Morales postponed the president's inauguration.
Speaking at a press conference, Morales said that the inauguration could take place at a later date, adding that there is nothing unconstitutional about it.
After winning last year's presidential elections, Chavez was reelected on October 7. However, shortly afterwards, he revealed about the return of his cancer.
Last month, Cuban doctors removed his cancer through surgery. However, he is not fully recovered from it and is still in Cuban capital Havana.
He was due to attend the inauguration ceremony, which the government had earlier described as just a formality.
Tens of thousands of Venezuelans took to the streets of Caracas to show their support for ailing president Hugo Chavez on the day he was scheduled to be inaugurated. Chavez has not been heard from since he was hospitalised in Cuba a month ago, and the Supreme Court cleared him to indefinitely postpone his swearing-in
Venezuelans take to the streets to show support for Chavez
Defying Catholic Church's warning against going against the constitution by delaying inauguration, the Venezuelan government on Tuesday announced that President Hugo Chavez would take oath of office before the Supreme Court (SC) at a later date since he could not come home in time for January 10 inauguration.
Vice President Nicolas Maduro made the announcement in the National Assembly through a letter, which confirmed that 58-year-old Chavez, who recently had a surgery to remove his cancer in Cuba, is too sick to come back on time.
"According to the recommendation of the medical team … the process of post-operative recover must extend beyond January 10 of the current year, reason for which he will not be able to appear on that date before the National Assembly," National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello read the letter.
The letter further said that the announcement would not violate the constitution as Chavez would take the oath before the Supreme Court later - a move that is line with article 231 of the constitution. The government had earlier described swearing-in as a small formality that can be delayed. However, the opposition demanded the government to declare Chavez temporarily incapacitated and urged the National Assembly speaker seek his replacement on an interim basis.
Opposing the move, opposition leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles expressed surprise on why the Supreme Court judges are not taking any action on such violations. "… Right now in Venezuela, without any doubt whatsoever, a constitutional conflict has arisen," Capriles said.
The charter that opposition is referring to also states that if president-elect or president dies or permanently incapacitated before taking office, the election must be held within a month of such a situation.
Catholic church reminds Venezuelan government to respect constitution
Less than a week before the inauguration of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's for a new term, the country's Catholic church on Monday issued a stern warning to the government against delaying the process as this would violate the constitution.
"At stake is the good of the country and the defense of ethics. To alter the constitution to attain a political objective is morally unacceptable," Venezuela's conference of bishops said.
Chavez is still recovering from cancer-surgery in Cuban capital Havana. Chavez, who won presidential elections last year, is due to sworn-in for another six-year term on January 10.
The church's warning came in the wake of Vice President Nicolas Maduro's argument that the swearing-in is just a formality and that can be postponed indefinitely. He also said that the current administration could continue without such formalities until a new one can be sworn in - a remark, which angered the opposition. One of the opposition leaders, Julio Borges, called for street protests against Muduro's planned move.
"People should get ready to protest and rebel against what will be a failure to uphold the constitution," said Borges, national coordinator of the opposition Justice First party. "We are preparing a real campaign, which will involve going to institutions, countries, embassies and organisations outside of the country to let them know that authorities are trying to twist the constitution due to an internal problem," he added.
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