March 8, 2014
Venezuela lawmakers elect Chávez ally as Assembly chief
Venezuelan lawmakers re-elected a staunch ally of Hugo Chávez as leader of the National Assembly today, putting him in line to be caretaker president if the socialist leader does not recover from cancer surgery.
By choosing the incumbent, Diosdado Cabello, the "Chavista"-dominated legislature cemented the combative ex-soldier's position as the third most powerful figure in the government, after Chávez and Vice President Nicolás Maduro.
"As a patriot ... I swear to be supremely loyal in everything I do, to defend the fatherland, its institutions, and this beautiful revolution led by our Comandante Hugo Chávez," Cabello said as he took the oath, his hand on the constitution.
He had earlier warned opposition politicians against attempting to use the National Assembly to conspire against the people, saying they would be "destroyed" if they tried.
Thousands of the president's red-clad supporters gathered outside parliament hours before the vote, many chanting: "We are all Chávez! Our comandante will be well! He will return!"
If Chávez had to step down, or died, Cabello would take over the running of the country as Assembly president and a new election would be organized within 30 days. Chávez's heir apparent, Maduro, would be the ruling Socialist Party candidate.
Chávez, who was diagnosed with an undisclosed form of cancer in his pelvic area in mid-2011, has not been seen in public nor heard from in more than three weeks.
Officials say the 58-year-old is in delicate condition and has suffered multiple complications since the Dec. 11 surgery, including unexpected bleeding and severe respiratory problems.
Yesterday night, Maduro gave the clearest indication yet that the government was preparing to delay Chávez's inauguration for a new six-year term, which is scheduled for Thursday.