Venezuelan Army Backs Chavez Amid Uncertainty
Court rules Chavez remains president and can be sworn in at a later date
Marilia Brocchetto CNN
January 16, 2013
|Hugo Chavez (right) visited Fidel Castro in Cuba, in March 2012|
Chavez was unable to be sworn in last week for a new term because he is in Cuba recovering from a fourth cancer surgery. His absence at the inauguration raised constitutional questions about who is in charge of the country, opposition politicians said.
The Supreme Court clarified the issue last week, ruling that Chavez remains president and can be sworn in at a later date.
The army will defend that decision, Defense Minister Diego Molero Bellavia said Wednesday.
"Soldiers will abide by and enforce the Supreme Court decision to allow the head of state to return home when his health improves," he said.
Molero added that the armed forces have "unconditional loyalty, now more than ever, to commander Hugo Chavez."
On Sunday, officials said Chavez's health was progressing positively and that the 58-year-old Venezuelan president was conscious and in contact with his family and political and medical advisers.
"In spite of the delicate state of his health... the general medical evolution has been favorable in recent days," a government statement said, noting that a lung infection Chavez has been battling was under control.
Neither Chavez nor the government has said what type of cancer he has, sparking growing speculation about his health and political future. Opposition politicians have decried the lack of transparency, while government officials have accused political opponents and right-wing media of trying to destabilize the government by spreading rumors.
Chavez has not made a public appearance or spoken on state television since doctors operated on him more than a month ago. The long absence is not typical of the loquacious leader, who missed his own inauguration last week.
CNN's Catherine E. Shoichet contributed to this report.