Supporters and opponents of Venezuela's ailing President Hugo Chavez, who won re-election last October, continued to argue Monday over whether a failure to hold the inauguration as scheduled three days from now would leave the country without a legitimate government.
The 58-year-old head of state remains hospitalized in Cuba almost four weeks after undergoing his fourth cancer surgery in 18 months.
Even if Chavez does not take the oath of office on Thursday, Caracas will be the scene of rallies and other events to mark the day, National Assembly speaker Diosdado Cabello said.
"We don't rule out anything. What we won't do is arrive at the 10th without knowing what it is we're going to do," he said at a press conference when asked if the government is assuming Chavez will not be in Venezuela on Thursday.
In its latest bulletin on Chavez's condition, the government said the president was battling "complications stemming from a severe lung infection" that developed after the Dec. 11 operation in Havana.
"All of Venezuela" will be joined outside the presidential palace on Thursday by heads of state and government from friendly nations, Cabello said.
The opposition standard-bearer in the October election, Henrique Capriles, said Monday that Chavez will remain president for the time being regardless of whether the inauguration takes place on schedule.
He added, however, that the constitution establishes a procedure for instances where a president is incapacitated.
Article 234 permits the vice president to serve as acting head of state for 90 days. At the end of that period, the National Assembly can vote either to extend the temporary presidency for another three months or to declare the office vacant and schedule fresh elections.
Chavez, who took office in 1999, is supposed to serve until 2019. EFE