Ailing Chávez reportedly wants quick return to Venezuela

Former top judge points to diplomatic issues over interim status

Vice President Nicolás Maduro talks at a rally held in solidarity with Hugo Chávez this week.
Vice President Nicolás Maduro talks at a rally held in solidarity with Hugo Chávez this week.MIGUEL GUTIERREZ (EFE)

With the prognosis of President Hugo Chávez still unknown, Venezuelans on Tuesday were awaiting word whether the 58-year-old leader will return home to either complete his recovery or possibly spend his last days after relinquishing power.

Several people who reportedly spoke to Chávez, who remains a patient at a Cuban clinic following major cancer surgery on December 11, said the fiery leftist leader wants to come home soon. "I communicated with Cuba and, brothers and sisters, we have good news about our brother, President Hugo Chávez. He is already undergoing physical therapy to return to his country," said Bolivian President Evo Morales in La Paz on Tuesday.

Elías Jaua, Venezuela's newly appointed foreign minister, said that Chávez was joking and giving instructions again, but didn't reveal the current state of his condition.

Reports from Caracas say the Military Hospital in the capital's Fort Tiuna is being prepared for Chávez, who reportedly wants to come home. But journalist Nelson Bocaranda, who has been accurately reporting on Chávez's condition, maintains that Spanish doctors, consulted by the president's medical team in Havana, have advised that the patient should not be moved for now.

Chávez has told his family and Vice President Nicolás Maduro that he wants to return "to face his reality, whether it is a miraculous recovery, which some are praying for, or his final demise," Bocaranda wrote. "Maduro has confessed to top members of the government that [Chávez] made a reference that he didn't want to end up like Cipriano Castro [an early 20th century Venezuelan president] who died in exile on the island of Puerto Rico."

But there could also be legal considerations that explain why the president might need to return as soon as possible. Chávez, who was re-elected last October to a fourth term, still needs to take his oath of office in front of the Supreme Court before he can appoint his Cabinet.

Jaua was named foreign minister last week through a decree that Chávez reportedly signed from his sick bed. But former Venezuelan Supreme Court President Cecilia Sosa said on Thursday that unless Jaua is sworn in by Chávez he cannot sign treaties or make formal commitments with other countries, and that other nations recognize this fact.

"There is an international juridical problem with this appointment," Sosa said in an interview with the Miami-based, US government-funded station Radio Martí.

Chávez's older brother, Argenis Chávez, who is president of the National Power Company (Corpoelect), confirmed the president was undergoing physical therapy to help with the respiratory failure he suffered earlier this month.


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