Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez can take the oath of office for his next term before the Supreme Court at a later date if the ailing leader isn't fit to be sworn in next week, his vice president said. Nicolas Maduro sent the strongest signal yet that the government may seek to postpone Chavez's inauguration as the 58-year-old president fights a severe respiratory infection more than three weeks after undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba.
Maduro's position in a televised interview last night generated new friction between the government and opposition over the swearing-in, which the constitution says should occur next Thursday before the National Assembly. Opposition leaders have argued that if Chavez doesn't make it back to Caracas by that date, the president of the National Assembly should take over as interim president. Maduro echoed other Chavez allies in suggesting the inauguration date is not a firm deadline, and that the president should be given more time to recover from his cancer surgery if needed.