Respect Venezuela’s Democracy

Recent days have seen articles in newsapers around the world seeking to create an expectation of crisis in Venezuela, due to President Chavez’s poor health,  Spain’s ABC newspaper has claimed the president is in a coma and only kept alive by a life-support system. The Guardian reports that social networks are abuzz with speculation that he is already dead. The Independent writes:

A shroud of political doubt enveloped Venezuela today as rumours grew that President Hugo Chavez may be close to death in a Cuban hospital or, at the very least, will not be well enough to make his own inauguration to a new term of office in just five days’ time.

While top lieutenants of his socialist, anti-US government still have not provided full details of the President’s condition they are not hiding its seriousness, revealing in public statements that he is suffering a “severe respiratory infection”. Mr Chavez, leader of the western hemisphere’s most oil-rich nation and one of the world’s most divisive political figures, has not been seen in public since undergoing cancer surgery in Havana on 11 December.

Few now believe he will be fit enough to leave Cuba in time for his inauguration to a new six-year term, which is due to take place in Caracas next Thursday. Yet his ruling socialist party, the PSUV, has struggled to explain what would happen were he not able to attend, in part because the leftist Bolivarian constitution that Mr Chavez himself helped craft over a decade ago offers no clear answer.

In fact, Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced on Friday (4 January) that President Hugo Chavez’s new term of office will begin this Thursday 10 January.

VP Maduro explained that the official Presidential swearing in ceremony can be done at a later date by the Supreme Court, in line with Articles 231-235 of Venezuela’s constitution. He called on “all Venezuelans to read their copy of the Constitution” where the current situation of the country is clearly outlined.

The announcement about the new term of office was made with Hugo Chavez currently in Cuba receiving treatment for cancer.

Hugo Chavez won a record number of votes to be re-elected as President with 55% last October. But Maduro has warned about the right-wing’s attempts to use Chavez’s current absence to force a new election. He explained that opposition leader, Guillermo Aveledo recently sent a letter to all ambassadors in Venezuela in which he develops “a false thesis of what is stated in the National Constitution.”

He added that “In recent hours the misinterpretations of the right have increased as they believe that their hour has come. They have launched a national and international campaign against the Venezuelan people, looking to take advantage of the circumstances in order to destabilise the country.” The objective of these plans is to “reverse and destroy the Bolivarian Revolution” he highlighted.

On Saturday Venezuela’s National Assembly (its parliament) began its new term of office and re-elected Diosdado Cabello as President of the Assembly. During the session Cabello explained that “Hugo Chavez was elected president and he will continue to be president beyond January 10. No one should have any doubt … this is the constitutional route.”

An Emergency Public Meeting in Support of Venezuela

Thursday January 10, 7.00pm,
Bolivar Hall, 54 Grafton Way, London, W1T 5DL (nearest tube: Warren Street)

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• Samuel Moncada, Venezuelan Ambassador

• Tariq Ali, writer • Jeremy Corbyn MP

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