Diosdado Cabello, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, has been reelected as parliament speaker. The Venezuelan president was still in the Cuban capital Havana, where he is receiving treatment for cancer, when Cabello was reelected as the speaker of the Venezuelan National Assembly on Saturday. Cabello could become a caretaker leader of Venezuela if Chavez is unable to discharge his duties. Commenting on the dispute over what would happen if Chavez is unable to attend the presidential inauguration, which is scheduled to be held on January 10, Cabello said, “The president will continue being president beyond January 10… Nobody should have any doubt about that.” Chavez's allies have a majority in the 165-seat National Assembly.
On the same day, hundreds of Chavez supporters, holding flags and pictures of the South American leader, gathered outside the National Assembly and chanted, "He will return! He will return! The comandante will return.""I love him, I want him, and I hope he recovers," one of the supporters said. In a televised message, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas also said that Chavez is still in office. "Chavez has won a thousand battles and has reappeared when no one expected," Villegas said. On Friday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro stated that if Chavez did not attend his swearing-in ceremony, he could be sworn in by the Supreme Court of Justice later. "The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved before the Supreme Court of Justice, at the time (the court) deems in coordination with the head of state, Commander Hugo Chavez," Maduro noted. The Venezuelan president underwent a fourth round of cancer surgery in Havana on December 11, 2012. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, if the president dies or is declared incapacitated, a new election must be called and held within 30 days. Chavez, who came to power in 1999, was reelected to a new six-year term in October. NT/HGL