A power struggle appears to be in the works as doubts are growing over whether Venezuela's ailing president will attend his own inauguration in two weeks, following surgery for cancer.
President Hugo Chavez is up and walking around following the six hour surgery on Dec. 11 to remove another tumor, Vice President Nicolas Maduro announced this week.
It was the fourth operation the Venezuelan president has undergone since June 2011, when it was revealed a cancerous mass had been found in Chavez's pelvic area. This operation was allegedly carried out to remove new growths in the same area as the prior tumors. All of his treatments have been carried out in Havana, Cuba.
"He was in a good mood. He was walking, he was exercising,” said Maduro in an interview on Venezolana de Television, the country's state television network. He told the nation that he had spoken with the president for about 20 minutes Monday night.
Numerous medical commentators and analysts have been skeptical about the president's condition and the information being released.
With inauguration following his re-election for another six-year term only two more weeks ago, on January 10, a power struggle seem to have already begun, anticipating the possibility that Chavez may be unable to attend his own swearing-in ceremony.
Should Chavez be unable to return prior to the scheduled inauguration, opposition leaders are calling for new elections, pointing out that Venezuela's constitution does not allow the postponement of a president's inauguration.
Government officials argued in response that the constitution allows the Supreme Court to administer the oath of office at any time, if it is not possible to be performed by the National Assembly as scheduled on January 10.
Bolivian President Evo Morales, a longtime Chavez ally, made a quick trip to the hospital to see his old friend, adding to speculation that the Venezuelan president was not in good condition, international media reported.
Cuban President Raul Casto received Morales at the airport, telling reporters he came to “express his support” for Chavez, but gave no other details. Morales left Sunday and made no comment to the media.
Journalists invited to cover Chavez's arrival -- and his departure -- from Havana were hastily informed the schedule is now “unclear” and they would be updated as events changed.