01/08/13 - NPR - Ill In Cuba, Chavez Likely To Miss His Swearing In
In the Bolivar Plaza of downtown Caracas, Venezuela, President Hugo
Chavez's passionate supporters arrive carrying photographs of their leader
and singing songs urging him on.Music blares from loudspeakers, repeating
over and over, "Chavez, my commander is here to stay."
Chavez, however, is most definitely not here,and increasingly many
Venezuelans wonder if he'll ever be back. He flew to Cuba,Venezuela's
closest ally,for an operation that took place on Dec. 11.Before leaving
for his fourth cancer surgery, Chavez named a successor.
What little has been reported about his health since has not been
good.Right after the surgery, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas went
on state television to say that Chavez was suffering from internal
bleeding. Then at the end of December, things seemed to worsen.
In a statement read from Havana, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said there
were complications and there were risks. Days later, the word from the
government was that Chavez had a severe lung infection.
Never in Chavez's year and a half battle with cancer have officials said
what kind of cancer he has or what the prognosis is.Instead, state
television plays commercial after commercial showing Chavez with his
followers and telling groups of young men to work hard for the betterment
of the country.
Yet, while heart-warming videos of El Comandante air,government officials
have offered signals that Chavez will not return by Thursday to take the
oath of office and start his fourth presidential term.
The nation's constitution says that the inauguration should take place
that day before the congress, but Vice President Maduro has called that a
In an interview on state television, Maduro said there's flexibility built
into the constitution, and that because the president was re-elected in
October there's continuity from one term to the next.
Maduro also noted that the constitution permits Chavez to also be sworn in
by the Supreme Court, and that the date can be pushed back.
"That doesn't [make] sense at all," says Constitutional lawyer Carlos
Ayala. He says the constitution is clear, and doesn't support the
"So it's not that we elect a president for an undetermined term, for an
uncertain term," he says. "We elect a president for a mandate to take
place beginning one day and finishing one day. That's what constitutional
democracy is all about."
Ayala says that if Chavez can't show up on Thursday, then the constitution
says the head of the congress becomes interim leader.
Chavez could later return and be sworn in.
What's vital, Ayala says, is that the public learn more about Chavez's
health. Perhaps through a medical board commissioned to travel to Cuba.
"None of that is being done," he says. "We have just been told that he's
coming, that we have already had enough information."
At the Plaza Bolivar in central Caracas, though, Chavez's red-shirted
supporters say they've heard enough about the president's health.
One of them is Milia Duarte,50,a self-styled Chavista.
"There've been reports every day,"she says, "They've been clear. I'm
pleased and feel like I'm informed."
Duartealso says she's hoping for Chavez to return.
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