|Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro speaks during a television program, in Caracas, on Jan. 4, 2013. Venezuela's cancer-stricken PresidentHugo Chavezcan continue in office even if he is unable to be sworn in to a new term on January 10 as scheduled, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Friday. (Xinhua/Venezuela's Presidency)|
CARACAS, Jan. 5 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro said Friday that ailing President Hugo Chavez could be sworn in by the Supreme Court at a later date if he is not able to take the oath of office as scheduled on Jan. 10.
This is the latest and clearest government statement over Chavez's swearing-in for his third six-year term in response to the opposition's calls for naming a replacement for Chavez or holding a new election given Chavez's critical condition.
Chavez has not appeared before the public or been heard from since he underwent his fourth cancer surgery on Dec. 11 in Cuban capital Havana, although the government and his allies have occasionally updated the Venezuelans with information about his condition.
The recent government statement described Chavez's respiratory infection he contacted after the surgery as "severe" and confirmed that the 58-year-old president is facing "complications," which fed speculations that Chavez would not be well enough to return home and take the oath of office on Thursday.
Venezuelan opposition leaders, accusing the government of giving "insufficient" information about Chavez's health, have even argued that Chavez seems no longer fit to continue as president.
They also demanded that Chavez at least temporarily give up the presidency to the speaker of the National Assembly and a new election be held within 30 days if he is not in Caracas on the inauguration day.
According to Venezuela's Constitution, new elections will be held within 30 days if the National Assembly determines a "complete absence" of the president because of death, physical or mental impairment or stepping down either before taking office or being dead during his first four years in office.
If a new election is called, presidential power should be held temporarily by the speaker of the National Assembly.
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