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Chávez's inauguration in Venezuela postponed. Is that legal? (+video)

Venezuela has been thrown into uncertainty over who should become president tomorrow, what the Constitution dictates, and what is against the law.

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Ironically, says Ricardo Sucre, a political analyst in Caracas, this goes against what Chávez said in his last public appearance: That should Chávez not be able to run the country, Mr. Maduro was his preferred candidate in new elections. “Chávez himself stuck to the letter of the Constitution,” Mr. Sucre says.

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Will condemning the Chávez administration as unconstitutional backfire for the opposition?

The Chávez administration is facing criticism for postponing the inauguration. Christopher Sabatini, editor in chief at Americas Quarterly, points out: “Repeatedly this government has bent the Constitution in a way that may not violate the letter of the Constitution but does violate its spirit. This is no exception.”

But the situation could also backfire for the opposition, especially its appeal to the OAS. As Mr. Smilde writes: “In appealing to the OAS the opposition may run counter to public sentiment.”

The fact that their sick president cannot come for his swearing in generates sympathy for his condition, not rage at the violation of abstract rules.… For the average Venezuelan, the opposition’s taking the issue of Chávez’s swearing in to international institutions makes them look like they are trying to take advantage of the situation. It only reinforces the popular image of them as people who use democratic formalities for their own interests and feel more comfortable abroad than at home.

What happens after Jan. 10?

Lawmakers are also calling for immediate transparency in the health of Chávez, to assess whether hs is "temporarily" absent from Venezuela or whether he is going to be "permanently" absent. He was diagnosed with cancer in the pelvic area in 2011 but the type, stage, and his prognosis have yet to be revealed. After declaring himself cured, Chávez suffered a recurrence and went to Havana in December for a fourth surgery. 

No one has heard from him since.

His government and family have sent conflicting reports: some saying that he is stable and recovering, others that his situation is precarious. “The first thing that should happen is [that] the nation should have a discussion about why exactly Chávez is absent, and whether this absence is temporary or permanent,’ says Sucre.

Freedom House echoed that sentiment.

“The people of Venezuela deserve a transparent explanation of the President’s state of health to determine if, and when, new elections are necessary. Prolonged uncertainty about who will be the next Venezuelan president is unacceptable,” said David Kramer, president of Freedom House, in a statement.


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