CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- A Venezuelan Supreme Court ruling letting President Hugo Chavez begin his new term Thursday in absentia was politically motivated, a key opposition leader said.
The court's ruling was intended "to resolve the problem" in the ruling United Socialist Party of a growing power struggle between Vice President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, Henrique Capriles said.
The power struggle has "totally paralyzed" the government, he said.
Maduro is the man Chavez said he wanted as his party's candidate in case he himself couldn't continue as president. Chavez appealed to voters to vote for Maduro. Cabello is a former vice president with close ties to Venezuela's military but has few ties to the Cuban revolution.
Chavez -- who declared himself fully recovered from his unspecified cancer July 9 -- flew to Cuba Dec. 10 for additional cancer surgery. He later developed a severe pulmonary infection that has resulted in a "respiratory insufficiency," the government said Jan. 3.
Chavez won election to a fourth term Oct. 7 and was to be inaugurated Thursday.
Capriles -- the governor of Miranda, one of the country's most populous states, which includes part of Caracas, the capital -- said the Supreme Court's ruling did not achieve its intended political resolution because it did "not clear the uncertainty that exists in the country."
But it is binding, he said, challenging Maduro, who is filling in for Chavez, to take leadership and solve Venezuela's many pressing problems.
"The excuses are over, Mr. Maduro," Capriles said. "It now falls on you to assume the responsibility of the office and govern."
The court ruled Wednesday Chavez had a right to an indefinite absence due to his ill health. The court, known as the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, ruled Maduro would continue in Chavez's place and said members of the current Chavez regime would "continue fully exercising their functions under the principle of administrative continuity."
Court President Luisa Estella Morales, who read the ruling aloud, also rejected demands a delegation of doctors be sent to Cuba to evaluate Chavez's health.
"At no time has the Supreme Court considered that there were merits to convening a medical board at this time," she said.
Maria Elena Ferrer, a Venezuelan national and political author who runs the Humanamente consulting firm in New York, told United Press International Wednesday the court's ruling reflected swift political changes to the court's makeup shortly before Chavez flew to Cuba.
"When the government saw it could no longer conceal the truth about Chavez's health, the leaders immediately rushed through changes, rearranging the Supreme Court justices," she said.
"The leaders knew the court would have to make a decision like this in January and they wanted to make sure the decision would support the regime," Ferrer said.
"The ruling highlights for the umpteenth time the lack of the rule of law in Venezuela," she told UPI.
Chavez has not been seen in public for a month, the longest stretch of his 14 years in power.
Cabello told a rally Wednesday "Chavez is the people" so the Venezuelan people would be sworn in as the national leader Thursday.
He told a news conference Monday leaders from "friendly" nations would travel to Caracas Thursday in a show of support. He did not say who the leaders would be.
Cabello also said the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, the apex of the nation's system of youth orchestras, would give a performance Thursday in honor of Chavez at the Teresa Carreno Cultural Complex, Venezuela's most important theater.
Thursday, January 10, 2013
Donde 'sta Hugo?
Was the Recent Election a Fraud? We'll find out when the opposition marches on 1/23.