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Venezuela Official: No Elections Even If Chavez's Inauguration Delayed

12/24/2012 5:28 AM ET

Venezuela's National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello on Sunday ruled out the possibility of holding new elections in the Latin American nation even if President Hugo Chavez's ongoing cancer treatment in Cuba prevents him from being sworn in for a fourth consecutive term in January as scheduled.

Incidentally, Chavez was re-elected as the Latin American country's president for a fourth consecutive six-year term in October, defeating his lone rival Henrique Capriles by a margin of nearly ten percentage points. He is due to be sworn in on January 10.

"The date of 10 January does not determine the president-elect's absolute absence. Since Chavez might not be here on 10 January, the opposition hopes the National Assembly will call elections. That's not going to happen. Commandante Hugo Chavez will continue to be our president," Cabello told reporters on Sunday.

Chavez is currently recovering in Cuba's capital city of Havana after undergoing a cancer surgery last Tuesday. It was the Venezuelan president's fourth cancer-related surgery after he was first diagnosed with the disease last year.

Although Chavez suffered from a respiratory infection soon after his cancer surgery, Venezuelan officials say he is currently in a stable condition. His vice-president Nicolas Maduro was quoted as saying on Sunday that Chavez's "recovery is consolidating with each day that passes."

In case of the sudden death or incapacitation of the president, the Venezuelan constitution stipulates that the vice-president must assume presidency until new elections can be held. The charter also states that fresh elections must be held within 30 days if the president leaves office in the first four years of his term.

It now appears that Chavez is most likely miss his inauguration ceremony set for December 10 because of his illness and continued treatment in Cuba. If that is the case, then it is up to National Assembly President to determine whether Chavez's absence is temporary or absolute. If his absence is found to be absolute, Cabello is required to call elections within thirty days.

Earlier this month, Chavez admitted that he needed surgery to remove "some malignant cells" from the same area from where tumors were previously removed. He said that the return of the cancerous cells were revealed in tests carried out in Cuba.

Ahead of traveling to Cuba for the latest surgery, Chavez had promoted his defense minister, Diego Molero, to the rank of admiral in chief, and named his vice-president Nicolas Maduro as his preferred successor if "something were to happen that would incapacitate" him.

Prior to the polls, Chavez had been shuttling between Venezuela and Cuba after he underwent an initial surgery in the Cuban capital on June 20, 2011 to remove a cancerous tumor in the pelvic area. He later underwent another surgery in Cuba in February to remove a lesion found in the same place where the tumor was extracted previously. He has also undergone four rounds of chemotherapy, three of which were in Cuba.

The maverick socialist has been ruling Venezuela since 1998 after winning consecutive elections. He has considerable support in his home country, mainly due to the massive government spending on social programs targeting the poor.

Chavez has already nationalized several key sectors of the oil-rich nation's economy as part of his socialist agenda. Nevertheless, the opposition parties made major inroads into the ruling party's strongholds in last year's parliamentary elections, denying it a crucial two-thirds majority in the National Assembly.

Nevertheless, Chavez's Socialist Party dominated the country's gubernatorial elections held over the last weekend, winning the governorships in nearly all but three of the country's 23 states. The three states secured by the opposition included Miranda, where Henrique Capriles defeated former Vice-President Elias Jaua to win re-election as governor.

by RTT Staff Writer

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