Chavez Now Fights "Severe" Lung Infection, Surrounded by Family Members
Hugo Chávez’s health appears to be quickly deteriorating.
Somberly reading a statement on national TV, Venezuela's Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said "Chávez has faced complications as a result of a severe respiratory infection. This infection has led to respiratory deficiency that requires Commander Chávez to remain in strict compliance with his medical treatment."
The statement raised the possibility that Chávez might be breathing with the assistance of a machine or even in an induced coma. But the government is not giving any further details of the president's condition not treatment.
Chávez's health crisis has raised contentious questions ahead of the swearing-in set for Jan. 10, including whether the inauguration could legally be postponed and what will happen if Chávez can't begin his new term. The plans of Chávez's allies remain a mystery.
The Venezuelan Constitution says the presidential oath should be taken Jan. 10 before the National Assembly, and officials have raised the possibility that Chávez might not be well enough to do that, without saying what will happen if he can't.
The constitution says that if a president or president-elect dies or is declared unable to continue in office, presidential powers should be held temporarily by the president of the National Assembly, who is now Cabello. It says a new presidential vote should be held within 30 days.
Opposition leaders have argued that Chávez, who was re-elected to a six-year term in October, seems no longer fit to continue as president and have demanded that a new election be held within 30 days if he isn't in Caracas on inauguration day.
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