San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Venezuelan opposition wants court ruling on Chávez crisis

CARACAS – Venezuela’s top opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, on Tuesday urged the Supreme Court to rule on whether cancer-stricken President Hugo Chávez’s re-inauguration can be postponed, as his government argues.

“I do not know what the judges of the Supreme Court are waiting for. Right now in Venezuela, without any doubt whatsoever, a constitutional conflict has arisen,” Capriles said.

Chávez is scheduled to take the oath of office on Thursday following his October re-election win, but he is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, his fourth operation in 18 months, and it’s not clear he will make it to the ceremony in Caracas.

Government officials say the presidential swearing-in ceremony is merely a formality that can be delayed, but the opposition says the constitution must be respected.

The constitution says new elections must be held within 30 days if the president-elect dies or is permanently incapacitated either before he takes office or in the first four years of his six-year term.

Capriles also urged Latin American leaders to stay away from a pro-Chávez rally convened by the government for Thursday in place of the inauguration.

So far, Uruguay’s President José Mugica, Bolivia’s President Evo Morales and Foreign Minister Ricardo Patiño of Ecuador are the only ones to confirm their attendance.

Capriles urged regional leaders not to succumb to “a game by a political party” – alluding to Venezuela’s ruling party. He mentioned by name the presidents of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Bolivia and Ecuador.

Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said late Monday that Chávez’s medical condition had remained “stable” since the latest complication from surgery was reported four days ago.

Chávez is suffering from a severe pulmonary infection that has resulted in weak breathing, officials have said.

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