Today the Venezuelan government announced that President Hugo Chavez will be unable to swear-in on the stipulated date of 10 January, but could do so at a later date. A large rally has been called for the day of the 10th in support of the president, while the opposition has warned it could create “anarchy”.
In a letter from Vice-president Nicolas Maduro to the president of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, Maduro stated that “the President [Hugo Chavez] has asked that [I] inform that, according to the recommendations made by the medical team that is watching over his health, the process of post-operation recovery should be extended beyond 10 January of the current year.”
“For this reason he won’t be able to appear on that date before the national assembly. This constitutes an irrefutable supervening reason to invoke article 231 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela in order to formalise, at a later date, the corresponding swearing-in before the Supreme Court,” the letter continued.
Article 231 of the constitution states that the incoming president should swear-in on 10 of January before the national assembly, but in the case of not being able to do so for supervening reasons, may swear-in before the Supreme Court.
In response to the request, Cabello said, “President Chavez, this assembly concedes to you the necessary time so that you can get better and recover”. The national assembly, in which the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has a majority, also voted tonight to approve Maduro’s request.
Mobilisation, strikes, and “anarchy”.
The PSUV has called for a large concentration at 10am on 10 January outside the Miraflores Palace.
“Everyone, come to Caracas… to support the president… Chavez in a firm way in the streets…to make the will of the people, expressed in the 7 October elections, respected,” Cabello said during a press conference today.
Some presidents have also confirmed that they will be in Caracas on 10 January in a show of solidarity, including Uruguay’s President Jose Mujica and Bolivia’s Evo Morales.
According to Cabello, the opposition umbrella group, the MUD, has also called for a “civic strike” from the 10th onwards.
“If that happens, the people will be in the streets to defeat it or any action that the opposition tries to take to destabilise the government,” he said.
The opposition has not made a formal call for a civic strike, but it has gone out widely on social networks.
Further, opposition leader and governor of Miranda state, Henrique Capriles, said in a press conference today that there is a “constitutional conflict” and that, “We’re not in Cuba here, where they pass power from one person to another…The people voted for a person on 7 October, not for a government.”
The Supreme Court announced on Tuesday that it will make a statement Wednesday morning, presumably about the constitutionality of the swearing-in process.
When asked what would happen if the court should support the idea of “administrative continuity” (Chavez continuing on as president-elect despite not swearing in on 10 January, and his administration running things in the meantime), Capriles replied, “It’s important to be careful… a wrong decision could contribute to anarchy…a scenario of not recognising the constitution and of anarchy isn’t convenient for anyone in Venezuela”.
Finally, he suggested that the Bolivarian Armed Forces “support the constitution and are willing to enforce its application”. He stressed the importance of “maintaining institutional order in the country” but finished with a “reflection: What would happen if we convoked half the country into the streets? There would be a war”.
Chavez was operated on 11 December in Havana, Cuba, for new cancer cells detected in the pelvic region. He was elected on 7 October with an almost 12% lead for a third six year term in office.