Thursday, January 10, 2013

Venezuelan Supreme Court Upholds Presidency of Hugo Chavez

Postponement of Chavez's inauguration sparks controversy 2013-01-10 11:27:47

• The opposition said postponement of Chavez's inauguration was against the Constitution.

• Venezuela's Supreme Court upheld government's decision to delay Chavez's inauguration.

• The decision to postpone Chavez's swearing-in is an internal matter, OAS said.

CARACAS, Jan. 9 (Xinhua) -- Postponement of re-elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's inauguration has sparked controversy in the country as the opposition said such a move was against the Constitution.

Venezuela's Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the government's decision to delay Chavez's inauguration scheduled for Thursday, saying the swearing-in was not vital due to his status as a sitting president who was re-elected.

Chavez is too ill to be inaugurated as he is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba.

President of the Supreme Court of Justice Luisa Estrella Morales, accompanied by all members of the court, announced the unanimous decision at a press conference.

Chavez's absence from the country should not be considered a temporary absence from power, Morales said, striking down one of the main arguments of the opposition, which insisted an interim leader should be named given the leader's absence.

"Despite the fact that on Jan. 10 a new constitutional term begins, a new swearing-in ceremony is not needed given his status as a re-elected president," the court decided. Morales added that the inauguration could be held at a later date.

Chavez, re-elected to a six-year term in October, was scheduled to take the oath of office at the National Assembly on Thursday in accordance with the Constitution, but aides maintained that the ceremony, as a mere formality, could be postponed.

The spokesman for the country's opposition forces, Henrique Capriles, who lost to Chavez in the October elections, insisted that the court's ruling fails to clear the uncertainty affecting the country.

The opposition's attempt to get international support for its campaign to replace Chavez with an interim leader also appeared to backfire Wednesday, after the Organization of American States (OAS) called the affair a domestic issue.

The decision to postpone Chavez's swearing-in is an internal matter that should be resolved by its people, not by the international body, OAS Secretary-General Jose Miguel Insulza told Chile's ADN Radio.

His comments came in response to a letter of Venezuela's opposition coalition sent the OAS, which warned that the postponement was tantamount to a violation of the Constitution.

Meanwhile, regional leaders, including Uruguayan President Jose Mujica and the Prime Minister of Dominica Roosevelt Skerrit, began to arrive in Caracas on Wednesday to take part in a mass show of support for Chavez scheduled for Thursday.

Also expected are Bolivian President Evo Morales and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe.

In December, Chavez underwent a fourth operation on an unspecified type of cancer and later contracted a lung infection, which complicated his recovery. His aides said Chavez was following events at home and making decisions from his hospital bed.

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