Venezuela postpones inauguration for cancer-stricken Chavez
By Brian Ellsworth and Diego Ore
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela will postpone the inauguration of President Hugo Chavez for a new term due to health problems, the government said on Tuesday, another sign the socialist leader's cancer may be bringing an end to his 14 years in power.
The 58-year-old former soldier who has dominated the South American OPEC nation since 1999 has not been heard from since surgery on December 11 in Cuba - his fourth operation since he was diagnosed with an undisclosed type of cancer in June 2011.
The announcement outraged opposition leaders who insist that Chavez must be sworn in before the National Assembly on January 10 as laid out in the constitution, or temporarily step aside and leave an ally in power.
"The commander president wants us to inform that, based on his medical team's recommendations, the post-operative recovery should extend past January 10," said Vice President Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's chosen successor, in a letter read to the legislature.
"As a result, he will not be able to be present at the National Assembly on that date."
The letter said authorities would seek another date for the inauguration ceremony but did not say when it would take place or give a time frame for Chavez's return from Havana.
Rather than being sworn in by the legislature, he would take his oath at a later date before the Supreme Court, the letter said, as allowed by the constitution.
Government leaders insist Chavez is completely fulfilling his duties as head of state, even though official medical bulletins say he has a severe pulmonary infection and has had trouble breathing. Continued...