[JURIST] Venezuelan official stated on Saturday that the country will not be holding a new election, even if President Hugo Chavez [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] is unable to take office on January 10 because of his cancer. Although there is a constitutional mandate [Reuters report] that the President be sworn in on January 10, Chavez is currently recovering in Cuba from an operation which took place after his re-election in October. The recent surgery for Chavez’s cancer has raised doubts over whether the Venezuela President is fit to govern for another term. Opposition leaders have demanded that there be new elections due to Chavez’s critical health condition and the importance of the swearing in date. A constitutional dispute over the delayed swearing in of President Chavez could lead to a turbulent transition in Venezuela and effect the South America region. Chavez supporters are trying to avoid a public debate over the Venezuelan President’s health, keeping details about his condition and treatment secret.
Chavez has been a controversial figure in the region. In July, Chavez announced [JURIST report] that the country would withdraw from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). In a statement during a military ceremony, Chavez announced the withdrawal and criticized the regional court, saying it is not fit to be called a human rights court. The decision came just after the IACHR concluded that the prison conditions of a man convicted in multiple bombings were a violation of his human rights. In 2011, Chavez criticized the IACHR [JURIST report] for ruling in favor of presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez, allowing him to run for office despite a separate court ruling barring him from the election. In October 2011, the Supreme Court of Venezuela ruled [JURIST report] that presidential hopeful Leopoldo Lopez remained banned from running in next year’s elections. Lopez, an opposition leader, was considered to be a threat to Chavez. As a result of corruption allegations, he was banned from public office through 2014 by the country’s comptroller general.