On Thursday, the chavista-controlled National Assembly might declare that the president’s absence is “temporary” and grant him 90 days leave, which could be extended by another 90 days. After that, it would be forced to declare him permanently absent and call elections. But during the six-month interim the constitution would require Cabello to be the acting president.
However, there’s no constitutional rationale for Maduro to remain acting president after Thursday, he said. “That would be the most dangerous scenario,” he said. “The government’s very legitimacy would be at stake.”
There are signs that that’s exactly what will happen. Both Maduro and Cabello have said that nothing changes on Thursday — Chávez remains president, whether he’s sworn-in or not, and his cabinet lineup remains unchanged.
“It’s very difficult to foresee what’s going to happen on Jan. 10, but what should happen is that the National Assembly will have an open and public debate about the issue,” Haro said. “And what should happen is that they find the scenario that’s best for Venezuelans and the political and economic interests of the country.”
This past week, Cabello and Maduro appeared on national television together and tried to quell rumors that they are locked in a power struggle. As they inspected a coffee factory, Maduro said that both men were like “brothers” and that they had taken an oath in front of Chávez to stay united for the nation.
But some don’t buy it.
“The obvious rivalry” between the two men “makes it difficult to believe everything they are telling us about the president’s health,” Stalin Gonzalez, an opposition legislator, said in a statement. “We cannot get to Jan. 10 without knowing whether Chávez will return or not, and much less without knowing who will be in charge of Venezuela while the president recovers.”
Alfredo Weil, who was the head of the National Election Council for more than a decade, said the Maduro faction, seen as backed by the Cubans, would like to have elections as quickly as possible, so that the ex-union organizer and foreign minister can capitalize on his anointment as Chávez’s successor.
The Cabello faction wants to delay the vote as long as possible while he consolidates his power as interim president.
Sosa, the former chief magistrate, said the last 14 years of Chávez rule have prepared her for anything.
“It’s possible that Chávez lands in a plane on Jan. 10,” for the inauguration, she said, only partially in jest. “And then heads back to Cuba.”