Chavez 'Signs' Decree— From 1.3K Miles Away

Signature scandal sets off firestorm in Venezuela
By Kevin Spak,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 18, 2013 11:40 AM CST
A supporter of Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez holds up a banner bearing the image of the South American leader at a rally in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 10, 2013.   (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos)

(Newser) – One dubious signature has ignited a firestorm in Venezuela—or as the New York Times dubs it, "a tempest in an inkpot." The trouble started when a decree appeared naming longtime Hugo Chavez ally Elias Jaua as foreign minister, dated Jan. 15, listing Caracas as its point of origin, and bearing Chavez's signature—even though Chavez is still in Havana, Cuba, after cancer surgery. "We are sure that it was scanned," says an opposition lawmaker.

"He is one of the few people who can be in two places at the same time," deadpanned the former head of Venezuela's Supreme Court, adding that the appointment isn't valid. Vice President Nicolas Maduro dismissed the controversy, saying Chavez "signed the decree and the decree was published, simple as that." But the opposition isn't letting it go. "If the president can sign decrees, I call on him to appear, to speak to Venezuela and tell it what is happening in this government," one former opponent says. (Read more Hugo Chavez stories.)

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