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Venezuela’s opposition said cancer- stricken President Hugo Chavez is unable to fulfill his duties and that the government should temporarily hand his full powers over to Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, executive secretary of the opposition alliance known as the Democratic Unity Table, said the government should “tell the truth” about Chavez’s state of health. The self-declared socialist, who is supposed to be sworn in for his next term on Jan. 10, hasn’t been seen in public since alighting from a plane in Havana Dec. 10 to undergo a fourth cancer-related surgery.
“To attempt to make people think that the president is currently in control of his functions is an enormous irresponsibility because it’s obvious and evident that he isn’t,” Aveledo said yesterday in comments broadcast on Globovision.
The president’s brother Adan flew to Havana yesterday to join Chavez’s daughters by his bedside, son-in-law Jorge Arreaza said in a Twitter message. National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello is also in Cuba, Ultimas Noticias reported without saying where they got the information. Vice President Nicolas Maduro hasn’t been seen since saying two days ago he’d return to Caracas from Cuba.
Maduro said Dec. 30 that the 58-year-old president has suffered renewed complications from a respiratory infection after his latest operation.
Venezuelan bonds extended gains from yesterday. Yields on the benchmark 9.25 percent bonds due in 2027 declined 24 basis points, or 0.24 percent, to 8.71 percent at 1:36 p.m. in Caracas, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The price rose 1.97 cent to 104.38 cents on the dollar, the highest since November 2007.
Opposition leader Aveledo cited an article in Venezuela’s constitution that states that a “temporary absence” should be declared and full presidential powers transferred to the vice president for as much as 90 days if the president is away from the country for more than five days. During frequent absences for treatment in Cuba since June 2011, Chavez has repeatedly declined to hand over power, saying he could govern from the communist island.
Chavez’s brother-in-law, Science Minister Arreaza, wrote yesterday on his Twitter account that the president’s condition is “stable” yet “delicate.”
Under the constitution, if Chavez is unable to start his new term on Jan. 10 and doesn’t step down, the National Assembly president must determine if the absence is temporary or permanent. If his absence is deemed permanent, the assembly president must call for an election within 30 days. Current National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello faces re-election for that post on Jan. 5.
In a resolution in the Official Gazette dated Dec. 21, Chavez transferred to Maduro the presidential powers to authorize debt sales, seize assets, approve changes to Venezuela’s annual budget and accept or reject proposals submitted by government ministers. While Maduro was in Cuba, he appointed Electricity Minister Hector Navarro as temporary vice president until Dec. 31.
It isn’t clear who was in charge of South America’s largest oil producer Jan. 1, when Navarro’s term expired and Maduro remained in Cuba.
The government reprimanded Globovision for referring to Maduro as “interim president” in a report, stressing that Chavez is still in charge of the country.
“The fact that for medical reasons the president is on constitutional leave, approved unanimously by the National Assembly, and has delegated some of his powers to the vice president, doesn’t authorize anyone to not recognize his title and current position,” Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in a statement datelined yesterday and published today.
Before departing for Cuba, Chavez urged Venezuelans to vote for Maduro should his health prevent him from assuming office and said he was leaving the country in the “good hands” of Maduro while declining to cede full power.
Maduro urged Venezuelans to ignore rumors of Chavez’s death spread by the country’s enemies and “right-wing journalists,” saying he met with the Venezuelan leader twice and also spoke with Fidel Castro and members of Chavez’s family at the hospital where the Venezuelan leader is being treated. Maduro said he chose to stay longer after announcing the complications. While Chavez is aware of the setbacks, Maduro expressed confidence in his recovery.
“He squeezed my left hand with an immense strength while we spoke,” Maduro said. “If he is fighting with such strength, so we must have the same strength. We are confident and have faith in God and the doctors that our comandante will continue to evolve and sooner rather than later will come out of this delicate post-operative situation.”
Yields on Venezuela’s dollar-denominated bonds due 2027 fell 38 basis points, or 0.38 percentage point, to 8.95 percent, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The price rose 3.07 cents to 102.41 cents on the dollar, the highest since Dec. 12.
In a 50-minute interview on the Telesur network Jan. 1, Maduro praised policies pursued by Chavez, while stressing the importance of ties between Cuba and Venezuela.
The interview was designed to defuse speculation that Chavez’s death is imminent while positioning Maduro as the candidate most likely to continue his legacy once he’s gone, said David Smilde, a sociologist at the University of Georgia who wrote a book about Chavez’s rule.
“It was meant to show that he can do what Chavez does and to show him in a position of leadership in the type of one-on- one extended interview that you only do with a leader of state,” Smilde said in a phone interview from Caracas. “It was meant to make Maduro look presidential.”
Maduro vowed to keep Venezuelans informed of any change in the president’s health.
The gravity of Chavez’s condition prompted the cancellation of New Year’s Eve events in Caracas and the staging of vigils in which Venezuelans prayed for their leader to survive the latest setback.
During his Dec. 11 operation, Chavez experienced complications due to bleeding, Maduro said Dec. 13. Surgeons took corrective measures in time to control the bleeding, he said.
A week later, Information Minister Villegas said that Chavez was in “stable” condition after his medical team controlled a respiratory infection.
On Dec. 24, Maduro told state television that Chavez had recovered enough to talk with him for about 20 minutes, including 15 minutes devoted to economic instructions. Venezuela’s leader was in good spirits, walking and doing some exercises, Maduro said.
While the prolonged absence from public view has prompted speculation that Chavez won’t return to Venezuela in time to assume power for a new term, Maduro said he was encouraged by Chavez’s resolve.
“Yesterday people were asking me via text message how I saw Chavez,” Maduro said. “I said that I saw him with an immense strength.”
To contact the reporters on this story: Charlie Devereux in Caracas at firstname.lastname@example.org; Corina Pons in Caracas at email@example.com.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Andre Soliani at firstname.lastname@example.org.