A heated debate has been sparked between government and opposition in Venezuela, after an official from the governing Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV) hinted at the possibility of changing the presidential inauguration date to allow for president Hugo Chávez’s recovery.
The head of the National Assembly and vice-president of PSUV, Diosdado Cabello, suggested on Wednesday that the inauguration date, set for 10th January, be postponed until Chávez can return from his convalescence in Havana, Cuba, where he underwent cancer surgery earlier this month. “This is just my opinion, it’s not official: you can’t tie up people’s will to a specific date. If you don’t do it that day, if it’s not on the 10th, then the will of 8 million people is worth nothing?” he said, and mentioned the precedent of a mayor who was given a three-month postponement.
Cabello, however, insisted that “the president is going to recover and take office on 10th January,” and said that it is the job of the Supreme Court to decide whether to change the date.
Some analysts have interpreted Cabello’s words as the sign of an internal dispute with vice-president Nicolás Maduro over Chávez’s political succession. Maduro refused to comment on the possibility of changing the inauguration date, saying that it would be entering “the realm of speculation.”
The secretary general of the opposition alliance Mesa de Unidad de Democrática (MUD), Ramón José Medina, reacted to Cabello’s suggestion saying that “On 10th January 2013, the president must appear and take office under oath. This date, fixed by the constitution, cannot be modified based on personal opinions or political convenience.”
The opposition has also demanded to receive trustworthy information regarding the president’s health. Carlos Vecchio, leader of opposition party Voluntad Popular, said that the National Assembly must create a mixed commission to travel to Cuba and talk to the medical board and the government’s representatives. “The big question is not just the medical report, the big question Venezuelans have at the moment is whether the president is capable of exercising government or not,” he said on an interview with Globovisión.
Regarding Chávez’s health, Maduro indicated yesterday that the president is “well and conscious.” He is still recovering from a respiratory infection that was detected on Monday, and which gave rise to speculations as to the recovery process over the last couple of days.
According to the Venezuelan constitution, if the president-elect cannot take office, the president of the National Assembly must call for new elections within 30 days.