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Venezuelan VP in Cuba again to visit ailing Chavez

13 января 2013, 13:15
Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro was in the Cuban capital Saturday, saying he wanted to visit ailing President Hugo Chavez whose month-long absence following cancer surgery has rattled his nation, AFP reports.

Maduro, handpicked by Chavez as his political heir, has been at the center of the oil-rich nation's response since its fiery president suffered complications from cancer surgery, forcing the government to delay the re-elected leader's inauguration on Thursday.

The Venezuelan vice president was received Friday in Havana by Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, Cuban state media reported. But it was not immediately clear when he would to able to see Chavez.

Maduro, 50, has delivered somber updates about the leader's delicate health, which has plunged Venezuela into uncertainty in the past month, with the opposition calling for a medical board to assess Chavez's condition -- a demand rejected by the Supreme Court.

Chavez has been out of public sight since undergoing surgery on December 11, the fourth operation in a year and a half.

"I will continue this work of visiting the family, meeting with the medical team, visiting our comandante Chavez and presenting him with the good news of a nation at work," Maduro said when visiting the headquarters of oil giant PDVSA.

A day after he led a huge rally in Caracas that replaced the 58-year-old president's swearing-in ceremony, Maduro said he would tell Chavez about the visit of 20 Latin American delegations, including heads of state, at the event.

Two Chavez allies, Argentine President Cristina Kirchner and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala, also arrived in Havana on Friday.

"We all hope for a quick recovery," Humala said.

Kirchner, who brought a Bible for Chavez, told reporters that she would have lunch with Cuban President Raul Castro and his retired brother Fidel, and that she would also meet with Chavez's family.

In power for 14 years and re-elected in October, Chavez was supposed to be sworn in to a new six year term on Thursday, but the government indefinitely postponed the event after the president suffered a severe lung infection.

Despite the charismatic leader's absence, thousands of fervent supporters swore "absolute loyalty" to Chavez during a rally that day.

Several regional leaders turned up, including fellow leftist presidents Evo Morales of Bolivia and Jose Mujica of Uruguay.

The opposition meanwhile called for counter-demonstrations on January 23, the anniversary of the day in 1958 that began Venezuela's modern democratic era with the ouster of its last military dictatorship.

The Supreme Court has ruled that the cancer-stricken Chavez can postpone his swearing-in indefinitely and that his socialist government can continue to lead the nation in the meantime.

It was the last legal hurdle to a government plan for resolving the vacuum created by Chavez's illness that met fierce resistance from the opposition, which had argued it was unconstitutional.

In a significant endorsement, the head of the Organization of American States said in Washington on Friday that the hemispheric body "fully respects" the decision to indefinitely postpone Chavez's swearing in.

"The issue has been resolved by the three branches of government of Venezuela: it was presented by the executive, considered by the legislature and decided by the judiciary," OAS secretary general Jose Miguel Insulza said.

Opposition coalition leader Ramon Guillermo Aveledo said he was "deeply disappointed" by the OAS statement. A source said Insulza will meet with four opposition figures on Tuesday.

The Venezuelan constitution says new elections must be held within 30 days if the president dies or is permanently incapacitated either before he can be sworn in to a new term or in the first four years of his mandate.

On Thursday, pro-Chavez masses poured out of buses from the early morning to rally behind the government in a celebration that was by turns festive and fervent.

A sea of red shirts and flags, the color of Chavez's socialist movement, filled the avenue in front of the Miraflores presidential palace where participants took a symbolic oath for the absent leader.

"Comandante, get better, because this people has sworn and is going to show absolute loyalty. This we have sworn. Long live Chavez!" Maduro said as he led the oath, accusing the opposition of harboring desires for a coup.

Maduro has assured that he will give up power as soon as Chavez gets better.

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