July 17 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez delegated some powers to the country’s ministers while rejecting demands he cede the presidency as he undergoes chemotherapy in Cuba, starting today.
Technology will allow him to communicate with his government from the communist island, Chavez said, while demonstrating on state television how he plans to sign laws electronically using a program on a laptop computer. Vice President Elias Jaua was given temporary oversight of ministry budgets, and the power to appoint deputy ministers and expropriate property, while Finance Minister Jorge Giordani was given the authority to grant tax exemptions, Chavez said.
Opponents “think we’re in the Venezuela of the 16th century and that I’m going to get on a sailboat and spend five days getting to Havana without being able to communicate,” Chavez said in the televised remarks. “We live in another world, what some call a global village,” Chavez said in a meeting with ministers.
Venezuela’s National Assembly yesterday unanimously approved Chavez’s request to be granted permission to travel to Cuba to receive cancer treatment. Chavez, who has led South America’s largest oil producer since 1999, has said Cuban doctors removed a baseball-sized tumor from his pelvic area June 20 after an initial operation to remove a pelvic abscess on June 11.
Chavez said he plans to return “soon” from Cuba, and has been in full control of the nation’s government even while undergoing two operations.
Opposition lawmakers, while voting in favor of allowing Chavez to return to Cuba to seek treatment, demanded more information about Chavez’s illness and said it is constitutionally illegal to govern from Cuba.
“In the case that I should feel for some reason that I had diminished capacities to carry out this task the people have given me, I would be the first to do what the constitution says and announce a temporary or absolute absence,” Chavez said.
Speaking to members of his party before departing for Cuba, Chavez said there are “cancerous tumors” in his government seeking to create divisions and called on his allies to unite while he undergoes chemotherapy.
Chavez also yesterday said he would ask Venezuela’s judicial system to show clemency on prisoners that share his illness.
The socialist leader may have been referring to Maria Lourdes Afiuni, a judge in Caracas, who was arrested in December 2009, for ordering the conditional release of banker Eligio Cedeno, accused of fraudulently obtaining dollars from the government in 2003. She was held in a women’s prison until February and was granted leave to be held at home after doctors said she required an operation for cancer. Afiuni had ruled that prosecutors had exceeded the time limit to bring Cedeno’s case to court.
Chavez has pared his sometimes seven-hour speeches and said he’s kicked a coffee addiction of as many as 40 cups a day as his illness unfolded.
--Editors: Theo Mullen, Sylvia Wier
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