Contemplating Chavez's future
"He stays, he stays, my commander will stay," chanted people outside the Venezuelan National Assembly.
And for now that is what will probably happen in Venezuela, even though President Hugo Chavez is unlikely to be back for his inauguration on January 10.
The government is treating inauguration day as a formality, and claims that Chavez can be sworn in later on by the Supreme Court if he is not back in time for the day established in the Constitution. For some members of the opposition, if Chavez is not back by then, it's the proof that Chavez is not fit enough to rule and that the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, one of Chavez's closest aides, should take office.
"The President enjoys a leave of absence under the constitution of the Republic and we will make sure that that leave of absence is respected. You can twist it all you want but on January 10 it will not be an opportunity to overturn the will of the people," said Cabello.
Cabello has called people to gather in front of the Presidential Palace on Thursday to show their support for Chavez and he said that the presidents of the region that are close to Chavez will be in Venezuela on that day.
The ongoing debate between the Government and the opposition seems a discussion between legality and legitimacy. The constitution says that the president should be inaugurated by January 10. But Chavez is the President now and he was reelected by the majority less than three months ago.
The government is not planning to declare an absolute or temporary absence for now.
The question is not whether Chavez will be back by January 10 but if Chavez will be back at all. The opposition says that they want more information on Chavez's condition. Vice President Nicolas Maduro said that Chavez is suffering from a lung infection that has caused respiratory insufficiency. But many here say that is not enough information to know whether Chavez will recover or not.
"The ball is on the Government's side. They lie, they don't say the whole truth. Something different of what needs to happen in democracy. Our role is to put pressure so that the alarms ring," Julio Borges, from the opposition, told us. Venezuela's Communication and Information Minister told Al Jazeera that the opposition is determined to remove Chavez from power. "The opposition is a group that are already fighting each other for power, full of ambition - and who are already competing on who is going to run for some hypothetical elections. They want to make it look like there is a constitutional crises and that’s not correct," said Ernesto Villegas.
For now it seems that the government is buying time to see whether Chavez will be able to make it back. And authorities here have enough power to do as they please. The United Socialist Party of Venezuela has a majority in the National Assembly, the Supreme Court has traditionally sided with the government and the Armed Forces are loyal to Chavez - at least for now.
The coming days will certainly be crucial for Venezuela, and as Hugo Chavez continues to struggle for his life in Havana, his supporters here are doing everything they can to ensure that his socialist revolution lives on.