The Venezuelan Supreme Court ruled today that President Hugo Chavez will begin a new term on Thursday even if he is not sworn in during a ceremony.
Chavez has been infirmed in a Cuban hospital after undergoing treatment for cancer in the past month and is battling complications. His deputy, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro, and Chavez will remain in their roles after Jan. 10 when he does not attend the ceremony.
The Venezuelan government has said that Chavez will not be able to attend the ceremony and said it would have to be postponed. The Supreme Court endorsed the government’s decision, reported Reuters.
“Right now we cannot say when, how or where the president will be sworn in,” Supreme Court Chief Judge Luisa Morales said on Wednesday, according to the news agency. “As president re-elect there is no interruption of performance of duties … The inauguration can be carried out at a later date before the Supreme Court.”
Venezuelan officials have said that Chavez is still fulfilling his duties as head of state. However, there have been reports suggesting that complications following his cancer surgery left him with trouble breathing, reported Reuters.
He has not spoken publicly in more than a month, sparking criticism from opposition members, who accuse the government of not being forthcoming with information about his health.
“It’s very evident that he isn’t governing, and what they want us to believe is that he’s governing, and they’re lying,” opposition leader Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said on Venezuelan television, reported The Associated Press.
He said the National Assembly should take over and the Supreme Court should appoint doctors to determine if Chavez is fit to continue ruling.
Maduro on national television said that the opposition has wrongly interpreted the country’s constitution, saying that the Supreme Court can swear Chavez into office at a later date.
“They should respect our constitution,” he said, according to AP, referring to the Venezuelan opposition. “The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved before the Supreme Court of Justice.”
Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski warned that if Chavez does not appear at an inauguration ceremony soon, “anarchy” could follow, according to Bloomberg News. “This isn’t a monarchy, and we aren’t in Cuba,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday.
The governmental tensions come amid a shortage of basic goods in the country, including toilet paper and corn flour. Venezuela on Tuesday ordered security forces to inspect supermarkets and producers to make sure that people were not hoarding goods, the news agency said. At the same time, Venezuela is also battling a currency crisis and inflation rates of 20 percent.
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