The Venezuelan Supreme Court has said ailing President Hugo Chavez can postpone his swearing-in ceremony indefinitely. He has been recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba for nearly a month.
The seven-member court rejected opposition arguments Wednesday that Chavez had lost his legitimacy due to illness and instead unanimously upheld the constitutionality of the ceremony's delay.
The 58-year-old president was re-elected in October, but has been undergoing cancer treatment in Cuba. Chavez's inauguration was planned for Thursday, but it was postponed by parliament after he suffered respiratory failure following a fourth round of surgery.
"The oath-taking of the re-elected president can be carried out at a time after January 10 before the Supreme Court, if it is not done on the said day before the National Assembly," the ruling said.
Away for a month
Chavez will have been out of the country for a month on Thursday, his longest stretch away from public view during his 14 years in office.
On Tuesday, Chavez's deputy and appointed successor told parliament that the president would not be sworn in for a fourth term as planned Thursday, but would take the oath at a later date in the Supreme Court.
Court President Louisa Estella Morales (pictured above) said while reading the ruling that "we know and accept that the swearing-in of the head of state is necessary and will be carried out, but for the moment we do not know when, or where, or how it will be done."
Morales also rejected opposition calls for a medical team to assess Chavez's health, saying "there were no merits to convening a medical board at this time."
Chavez 'not governing'
The opposition alliance Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) has accused the government of lying and violating the constitution.
"It is obvious that [Chavez] is not governing and that they want to make us believe that he is governing," said MUD leader Ramon Guillermo Aveledo.
If the government violates the constitution, MUD would report it to the Organization of American States and the trade bloc Mercosur, Aveledo added.
Meanwhile, the government is planning a rally outside the presidential Miraflores Palace in Caracas in support of Chavez.
So far, Bolivian President Evo Morales, Uruguayan President Jose Mujica, Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe, and the Foreign Ministers Hector Timerman of Argentina and Ricardo Patino of Ecuador have confirmed that they will attend the rally.
dr/ipj (dpa, AFP)