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Chávez's inauguration in Venezuela postponed. Is that legal? (+video)

Venezuela has been thrown into uncertainty over who should become president tomorrow, what the Constitution dictates, and what is against the law.

CARACAS (AFP) - Hugo Chávez's lieutenants ended the suspense over whether he would make it back to Venezuela to be sworn in on Thursday – but they failed to stamp out protests from the opposition who claim a constitutional crisis is under way. The inaugural day now being billed a day of pro-Chávez rallies, and the conflict looks set to continue as long as the ailing Venezuelan leader remains in hospital in Cuba.
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Hugo Chávez won a fourth term as president of Venezuela in October, and tomorrow, Jan. 10, was his scheduled inauguration. But the leader, who has been in office since 1999, is unable to appear before the nation to assume office. He has been in Cuba since his December cancer surgery there, and is facing a recovery deemed “complicated” by his government. Venezuela has been thrown into uncertainty as government allies and opposition figures face off over who should become president on Thursday, what the Constitution dictates, and what is against the law.

Is it unconstitutional for the inauguration to be delayed?

Allies of President Chávez say the inauguration can legally be delayed, arguing that the swearing-in is only a “formality.” They argue that Chávez maintains his post as president and will be sworn in later, in front of the nation's supreme court, when he is physically ready. The opposition earlier sent a letter to the Organization of American States (OAS) saying that his absence would be "a serious constitutional violation” and that the supreme court should weigh in. The Roman Catholic Church also accused the government of bringing instability to the country. Critics say that, under the provisions of the Constitution, the president of the national assembly should take office temporarily if Chávez does not appear Thursday. Simply maintaining “continuity” of the current administration is illegal, they say. 

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