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Venezuela's ailing Chavez to miss inauguration

ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will miss Thursday's (January 10) scheduled swearing-in ceremony for his third term due to health problems, the government said in a letter to Congress read out on Tuesday (January 8). Chavez has not been heard from since undergoing his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba on December 11, and officials have described his condition as delicate. The constitution says the president should begin a new term on Jan. 10. In a letter from Vice President Nicolas Maduro and read out in the National Assembly by its President Diosadado Caello, it was confirmed the inauguration would be postponed. The delay is another sign that Chavez's battle with an undisclosed form of cancer in the pelvic region may keep him from ruling for a third term. The constitution does not specify what happens if the president does not take office on Jan. 10. Government leaders insist Chavez is completely fulfilling his duties as head of state. Opposition leaders insist the government is running roughshod over the constitution by ignoring the specified inauguration date. They insist Congress head Diosdado Cabello, a key Chavez ally, should step in as a temporary president while Chavez recovers.

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