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Latin America

Ailing Chavez to be sworn in without oath?

Hugo Chavez could officially become Venezuela's president for another six years next Thursday even if he is too ill to take his oath. The revelation comes as Chavez struggles to fend off a post-cancer-op infection.

Hugo Chavez Krankenhaus

Venezuela's cancer-stricken president, Hugo Chavez, could still be sworn into his post if he cannot attend his oath of office scheduled for next week, according to his vice president Nicolas Maduro.

"The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court," Maduro said in an interview on state television late Friday, adding that there was no need to declare the president's “permanent absence” from his post.

Maduro rejected the argument put forward by some members of the opposition that, if Chavez does not take office properly next Thursday, new elections must take place.

Maduro also read out excerpts of the country's constitution that relate to such procedures.

A ‘psychological war'

Chavez inauguration can be postponed

Hugo Chavez's aides have scrambled to respond to increasing demands for information on whether the president will be able to deliver his oath for the six-year term that he won last October.

On Thursday, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, in a televised statement, claimed that Venezuelans were being subjected to a "psychological war" that the "transnational media complex has unleashed around the health of the chief of state."

Chavez, who has presided over the South American nation with the world's largest proven oil reserves for 14 years, has not been seen in public since he underwent cancer surgery in neighboring Cuba on December 11.

His recovery was proving difficult, said Villegas. A "severe pulmonary infection" following the operation had led to a "respiratory insufficiency”, he said.

Cancer ops and infections

Medical complications, such as the one Chavez is now battling with, are common for patients suffering from cancer.

"Up to 50 percent of deaths of patients affected by solid tumors are provoked directly or indirectly by infections," said Dr. Thierry Berghmans of the Jules Bordet Institute hospital in Brussels.

The cancer which Chavez is suffering from remains a mystery. The Venezuelan government has never disclosed the diagnosis.

sej/ipj (AP, Reuters, AFP)

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