Conflict Brewing in Venezuela's Ruling Party, Says Hugo Chavez Foe

The conflict brewing between two of Hugo Chávez's key political confidants is, according to one of the Venezuelan ruling party's political opponents, the real reason the Presidential inauguration has been postponed.

Opposition lawmaker Julio Borges said in a news conference on Sunday that a rivalry between Vice President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello is behind the postponement of Chávez's swearing-in ceremony. Chávez has not been able to return to Venezuela from Cuba following a Dec. 11 operation, his fourth surgery for an undisclosed type of pelvic cancer.

"While the president is sick in Havana, they have a power conflict," Borges said. "That's why they are engendering this violation of the constitution."

The Venezuelan Constitution states the presidential oath should be taken Jan. 10 before lawmakers in the National Assembly. But it says that the president may also take the oath of office before the Supreme Court if the president is unable to be sworn in before the assembly.

The government revealed last week that Chávez is fighting a severe lung infection and receiving treatment for "respiratory deficiency."

There have been no public signs of friction between Maduro and Cabello, who appeared side by side waving to supporters after a legislative session on Saturday. The two men have repeatedly rejected speculation they are at odds and have vowed to remain united.

"Come here, Nicolas. You're by brother, friend. They don't understand that," Cabello said, hugging Maduro before the crowd outside the National Assembly.

Borges, however, alleged that the two men were putting on a show.

"That big hug between Nicolas Maduro and Diosdado Cabello was set up to reflect unity that does not exist," he said.

Based on reporting by the Associated Press.

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