Cookie consent

We use cookies to improve your experience on this website. By continuing to browse our site you agree to our use of cookies. Tell me more | Cookie preferences

Venezuelan army backs Chavez amid uncertainty

The Venezuelan army attend a mass for the health of President Hugo Chavez, in Caracas, December 13, 2012.

Story highlights

  • Political tensions in Venezuela spill over into a regional meeting
  • The armed forces will defend the Supreme Court's decision on the presidency
  • The court said Chavez remains president and can be sworn in at a later date
  • The army has "unconditional loyalty" to Chavez, the defense minister says

Venezuela's armed forces will back ailing President Hugo Chavez's new term amid uncertainty of what a possible power transition might look like, the country's defense minister said.

Chavez was unable to be sworn in last week for a new term because he is in Cuba recovering from a fourth cancer surgery. His absence at the inauguration raised constitutional questions about who is in charge of the country, opposition politicians said.

Read more: Chavez misses key speech, but names new foreign minister, Venezuelan VP says

The Supreme Court clarified the issue last week, ruling that Chavez remains president and can be sworn in at a later date.

The army will defend that decision, Defense Minister Diego Molero Bellavia said Wednesday.

    Just Watched

    Daily struggle for food in Venezuela

Daily struggle for food in Venezuela 03:20
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    Venezuelan opposition: Where is Chavez?

Venezuelan opposition: Where is Chavez? 03:40
PLAY VIDEO

    Just Watched

    Chavez supporters stage rally

Chavez supporters stage rally 02:24
PLAY VIDEO

"Soldiers will abide by and enforce the Supreme Court decision to allow the head of state to return home when his health improves," he said.

    Read more: Venezuela says Chavez is improving

    Molero added that the armed forces have "unconditional loyalty, now more than ever, to commander Hugo Chavez."

    On Sunday, officials said Chavez's health was progressing positively and that the 58-year-old Venezuelan president was conscious and in contact with his family and political and medical advisers.

    Read more: Venezuela's Chavez is not in a coma, his brother says

    "In spite of the delicate state of his health... the general medical evolution has been favorable in recent days," a government statement said, noting that a lung infection Chavez has been battling was under control.

    Neither Chavez nor the government has said what type of cancer he has, sparking growing speculation about his health and political future. Opposition politicians have decried the lack of transparency, while government officials have accused political opponents and right-wing media of trying to destabilize the government by spreading rumors.

    Read more: Chavez illness fuels speculation and rumors

    Chavez has not made a public appearance or spoken on state television since doctors operated on him more than a month ago. The long absence is not typical of the loquacious leader.

    Read more: Chavez will not be sworn in on inauguration day

      Just Watched

      Venezuelan diplomat: Chavez is in charge

    Venezuelan diplomat: Chavez is in charge 03:59
    PLAY VIDEO

      Just Watched

      Chavez illness affects China relations

    Chavez illness affects China relations 05:08
    PLAY VIDEO

    On Tuesday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro stood in for Chavez at the annual state of the union speech. Maduro announced that a former vice president, Elias Jaua, will begin serving as foreign minister. Maduro said that Chavez himself made the designation.

    Some opposition politicians questioned whether Chavez had actually nominated a new foreign minister, or whether Maduro had effectively taken over the presidency.

    "If the president of the republic can sign decrees, I call on him to appear and speak to Venezuela and tell the people what's happening in our government, because in Venezuela what we have is lack of governance," said Henrique Capriles, who unsuccessfully ran against Chavez in the last elections.

    Capriles spoke at his own inauguration, as governor of the state of Miranda, a post he was elected to following his presidential defeat. He accused the Chavez government of trying to divide the public.

    "Never again will Venezuelans fight among themselves," he said. "Never again will we ask the people to get involved in a war. This government wants war; we want peace. This government wants to go backwards; we want progress."

    The rising political tension in Venezuela spilled over into a meeting of the Organization of American States on Wednesday.

    Panama's ambassador, Guillermo Cochez, criticized the regional body for not taking a stand against the situation in Venezuela, which he described as a "sick democracy."

    Venezuelan Ambassador Roy Chaderton quickly fired back, calling Cochez's comments "poisonous" and "miserable" and accusing him of conspiring with members of the opposition to destabilize Venezuela's government.

    Hours later, Panama's government disavowed Cochez's remarks, saying they were improvised and did not represent the country's position.

    "Panama reiterates that it will continue to respect to the internal political processes of states," Panama's foreign ministry said in a statement, "and, in the case of Venezuela, we are praying for the quick recovery of President Hugo Chavez."

        CNN Recommends

      • pkg clancy north korea nuclear dreams_00002004.jpg

        As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
      • Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
      • pkg rivers uk football match fixing_00005026.jpg

        Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
      • No Eiffel Towers, Statues of Liberties, Mt. Rushmores, Taj Mahals, Aussie koalas or Chairman Maos.

        It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.