May 21, 2013
Venezuela's ailing Chávez delegates some powers
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez delegated some powers to his vice president and finance minister on Saturday, hours before a planned departure to Cuba for cancer treatment.
Chávez resisted calls from the opposition to temporarily hand over the presidency of the OPEC nation to Vice President Elias Jaua during his absence. Instead, he gave Jaua and Finance Minister Jorge Giordani powers that include budgetary matters.
"I am going to delegate some decisions that until now were mine, signatures and decisions, to Vice President Elias Jaua and Jorge Giordani," Chávez said during a televised cabinet meeting.
Chávez had a large tumor removed last month in Cuba and was set to return to the Caribbean island on Saturday for chemotherapy. He has not said what type of cancer he has or for how long he will be out of the country.
The former soldier, who calls Cuba's Fidel Castro his mentor, has polarized politics in the Western Hemisphere since taking office in 1999 with his frequent lambasting of the United States, aggressive takeovers in Venezuela's vital oil sector and nationalizations of large swathes of its economy.
He mentioned some budgetary decisions and expropriations among the the powers he was delegating. Chávez's socialist government makes widespread use of nationalizations and expropriations to redistribute wealth.
Opponents say it is impossible for Chávez to effectively govern the OPEC nation of 29 million people from a Cuban hospital bed. The president resisted calls to step aside, however, since they echo a power vacuum during a short-lived coup against him back in 2002.
Chávez had two operations he described as "complicated" in Cuba last month -- the first for a pelvic abscess and another to remove a large tumor. He was away almost a month until returning to Caracas on July 4 a day before Venezuela's 200th independence celebration.
Chávez had been warming up for a bid for another six-year term next year when the illness struck.
He is still the only declared candidate for the election but questions inevitably will be asked about his fitness to run in light of his illness. At the very least, his campaign will be shorter and more subdued than he would like. At worst, he may be forced to drop out.