Politics, Business & Culture in the Americas

Latin American Leaders Converge on Venezuela, Without Chávez

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Though Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez will not be present, Uruguayan President José Mujica, Bolivian President Evo Morales, and Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega will be in Caracas today for the Venezuelan leader’s intended—and now postponed—inauguration.

As the ailing Chávez remains in Cuba recovering from a respiratory infection that followed his December 11 cancer surgery, hemispheric well-wishers are arriving in Venezuela to express support for the president, who was re-elected to a third six-year term as president in October despite concerns that he could soon become too ill to rule the country.

Vice President Nicolás Maduro said yesterday that Venezuelan officials have planned an event in honor of Chávez, who has not been seen in public for about a month. Chávez’ Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (United Socialist Party of Venezuela—PSUV) said that it would convene a rally in front of the presidential palace. Meanwhile, Henrique Capriles, Chávez’ opponent in last year’s presidential elections, urged heads of state not to attend the proceedings.

Yesterday, the Venezuelan Supreme Court announced that Chávez’ absence from Venezuela on the date of his intended inauguration was legally permissible and would have no impact on his claim to the presidency. Supreme Court President Luisa Estella Morales rejected opposition claims that postponing the president’s swearing-in ceremony until after January 10—the inauguration date stipulated in the constitution—would violate Venezuelan law.

The court’s move is intended to put to rest the possibility that Chávez’ failure to appear before the National Assembly today would trigger new presidential elections within the next 30 days or allow the president of the National Assembly to assume power temporarily, as members of the Venezuelan opposition had hoped. Morales said that the current government would continue to function under the leadership of Chávez’ chosen successor, Vice President Nicolás Maduro, based on the “principle of administrative continuity.”

The court’s announcement followed the National Assembly’s decision Tuesday to authorize Chávez’ absence from the country on the day of his intended swearing-in. Meanwhile, Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS) José Miguel Insulza declined to weigh in on the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s decision to postpone the inauguration.

“There are a series of political issues…that are at play, and I think it is better that the Venezuelan people resolve them tomorrow before pronouncements are made about them,” Insulza said Wednesday in an interview.

Tags: Chávez inauguration, Hugo Chavez, Venezuela
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