Chavez party resists call for new elections
on 05/01/2013 09:32:36
Nicolas Maduro made the comment in a televised interview, dismissing the argument by some opposition leaders that new elections must be called if Mr Chavez does not take office as scheduled on Thursday.
Mr Maduro said Mr Chavez, as a re-elected president, remains in office beyond the swearing-in date stipulated in the constitution and could be sworn in if necessary before the Supreme Court at a date to be determined.
He said the opposition "should respect our constitution". The vice president held up a small copy of the constitution and read aloud passages relating to such procedures.
Opposition leaders have demanded that the government provide more specific information about Mr Chavez's condition, and say a new election should be held within 30 days if the president does not return to Venezuela by inauguration day.
But Mr Maduro echoed other Chavez allies in suggesting the inauguration date was not a hard deadline and in saying the 58-year-old president should be given more time to recover from his cancer surgery in Cuba if necessary.
Mr Maduro expressed hope that eventually "we'll see him and we'll hear him" again".
"He has a right to rest and tranquillity, and to recuperate," Mr Maduro said on state television, speaking with information minister Ernesto Villegas.
The Venezuelan constitution says the presidential oath should be taken on January 10 before the National Assembly.
It also says that if the president is unable to be sworn in before the National Assembly, he may take the oath of office before the Supreme Court and some legal experts have noted that the sentence mentioning the court does not give a date.
The constitution says that if a president-elect dies or is declared unable to continue in office, presidential powers should be held temporarily by the president of the National Assembly and a new election should be held within 30 days.
Venezuelan MPs will meet today in a session that could shed light on what steps may be taken if Mr Chavez is too sick to be sworn in for a new term next week.
Legislators will choose a president, two vice presidents and other leaders of the National Assembly, which is controlled by a pro-Chavez majority.
Whoever is elected National Assembly president could eventually end up being the interim president of Venezuela if Mr Chavez is unable to be inaugurated on Thursday.
Brewing disagreements over how to handle a possible transition of power also could be aired at the session, coming just five days before the scheduled inauguration day specified in the constitution.
Mr Chavez's health crisis has raised contentious questions ahead of the swearing-in, including whether the inauguration could legally be postponed.
The government revealed this week that Mr Chavez was fighting a severe lung infection and receiving treatment for "respiratory deficiency" more than three weeks after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba.
The announcement suggests a deepening crisis for the president and has fed speculation that he is probably not well enough to travel to Caracas for the inauguration.
But Mr Maduro criticised rumours that have swirled about Mr Chavez's condition, saying: "He has a right to his privacy, and to recover."
Mr Chavez has not spoken publicly or been seen since his December 11 operation in Cuba. In a Thursday night update, the government for the first time described the president's respiratory infection as "severe", the strongest confirmation yet that Mr Chavez is having serious trouble breathing after days of rumours about his condition worsening.
The government's characterisation raised the possibility that Chavez might be breathing with the assistance of a machine. But the government did not address that question or give details of the president's treatment.
Independent medical experts consulted by The Associated Press said the government's account indicated a potentially dangerous turn in Mr Chavez's condition, but said it was unclear whether he was attached to a ventilator.