Wednesday, January 9, 2013
Venezuelan Top Court OKs Chavez Inaguration Delay (UPDATED)
The inauguration of President Hugo Chavez scheduled for tomorrow can legally be delayed according to a unanimous decision issued on Wednesday by the Venezuelan Supreme Court (TSJ, in Spanish initials).
In the ruling read by TSJ president Luisa Estella Morales, the tribunal concluded that the end of a presidential term does not indicate an end of power. She also said that other members of the Chavez administration can continue in their offices.
Morales noted that Chavez can be inaugurated at a later date in front of the TSJ though she did not provide a specific date.
She said the court's decision came from its interpretation of Article 231 of the Venezuelan constitution that according to BBC News states,"the president-elect shall take office on 10 January... by taking an oath before the National Assembly. If for any reason, (they) cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, they shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Court".
Chavez, who was supposed to be inaugurated for a third consecutive term on Thursday, has not been seen publicly since traveling to Cuba approximately one month ago for cancer surgery.
The TSJ's decision supports actions by the Venezuelan government seeking to delay the inauguration. Opposition politicians and exiled activists have decried the government's move as an unconstitutional power grab.
We will have more details later today on the ruling including reactions in Venezuela and abroad.
(Updates after the page break)
Update (3:25 PM): Shortly after the TSJ's ruling the head of Venezuela's unicameral federal legislature declared that Chavez is "not disabled" and will continue as Venezuela's president.
"There is a strength throughout the country and full support for commander Chavez," proclaimed Diosdado Cabello. He also critiqued the opposition for "wanting to divide (the country) and sell our future" by urging him to become interim president during Chavez' continued absence.
On Tuesday Cabello read a letter to legislators from Vice President Nicolas Maduro stating that the ailing president "will not be able to appear on (Thursday) before the National Assembly" for his inauguration. The pro-Chavez majority in the legislature then approved granting Chavez an open-ended absence from the country to continue in his recovery.
The TSJ's ruling earlier today is a blow against a Venezuelan opposition who has argued that Chavez should step down as president if he cannot attend his scheduled inauguration. Furthermore, the top court also rejected the contention by some opposition figures that an independent medical review of Chavez' health should be conducted.
Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles announced that he would speak later today on behalf of the opposition. Yesterday he called on Latin American presidents to "not participate in the political games" being played by the government.
Update (9:45 PM): Venezuelan opposition leader and ex-presidential candidate Henrique Capriles accepted the "binding" ruling made by the TSJ yet urged the government to stop the "total paralysis" that is hurting the country.
"Now the ruling has been handed down. There is an interpretation by the Supreme Court...The excuses are over, (Vice President Nicolas) Maduro. Now it falls to you to assume the responsibility of the office and to govern".
The Miranda state governor also called on the government at the Wednesday press conference to "stop with the insults and threats. Venezuelans are tired of being constantly intimidated".
Online Sources including Updates - BBC News, MSNBC, panorama.com.ve, RCN Radio, LAHT, El Universal, Al Jazeera English
Video Source - YouTube via Al Jazeera English