There have been many discussions in the comments about what Article 233 of the Venezuela Constitution says about how to replace the President of the country.
Let’s look at the article in Spanish:
Artículo 233. Serán faltas absolutas del Presidente o Presidenta de la República: la muerte, su renuncia, la destitución decretada por sentencia del Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, la incapacidad física o mental permanente certificada por una junta médica designada por el Tribunal Supremo de Justicia y con aprobación de la Asamblea Nacional, el abandono del cargo, declarado éste por la Asamblea Nacional, así como la revocatoria popular de su mandato.
Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente electo o Presidenta electa antes de tomar posesión, se procederá a una nueva elección universal, directa y secreto dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Presidente o Presidenta de la Asamblea Nacional.
Cuando se produzca la falta absoluta del Presidente o Presidenta de la República durante los primeros cuatro años del período constitucional, se procederá a una nueva elección universal y directa dentro de los treinta días consecutivos siguientes. Mientras se elige y toma posesión el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta, se encargará de la Presidencia de la República el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva.
En los casos anteriores, el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta completará el período constitucional correspondiente.
Si la falta absoluta se produce durante los últimos dos años del período constitucional, el Vicepresidente Ejecutivo o Vicepresidenta Ejecutiva asumirá la Presidencia de la República hasta completar el mismo.
The first part defines what an absence is. And then it says “When the absolute absence of the President elect occurs before he takes power, there will be a new universal election within thirty days immediately following. While the President is elected and the new President takes office, the President of the National Assembly will take office.
The next paragraph is what happens in the first four years of the Presidency.
And then it says: “In the cases before, the new President will complete the corresponding Constitutional period”. That is, if the President elect is incapacitated and there is time for an election and if the same happens to the elected President in the first four years of the term.
Finally it says: “If the absence occurs during the last two years of the Constitutional period, the Vice-President will assume the Presidency until it completes the term”
Some lawyers believe the last part trumps all, if the President dies the Vice-President takes over.
What is confusing is what it says about the new President completing the the Constitutional term. But this refers to the elected President only. That is, if the President elect dies with sufficient time to hold a new election and have a new President, before the term ends, the newly elected President would complete the term
But this is no longer the case. There is no time to elect a new President before the Constitutional period ends. There are less than thirty days until the inauguration. Thus, it is impossible for the “new President” to complete the term and the President-elect is not holding office, thus, he can not be replaced in office.
The only possibility left, is what the last part says that the Vice-President completes the term and the President of the National Assembly takes over on Jan. 10th. once the “Constitutional term” is completed.
Which makes you wonder about the timing of the operation. It was performed precisely on the day in which there were no longer thirty days left and there was no room for any other interpretation.
A simple example in which the President and the President-elect are different may clarify this:
Suppose Capriles had been elected and something happened to him. If this event happened with more than thirty days left for his inauguration, the President of the National Assembly would take over, elections would be scheduled and held and the newly elected President would complete the Constitutional term.
But if this happened within thirty days to the inauguration, only the Vice-President is empowered by the Constitution to complete the term. Nowhere does it say that the President of the National Assembly completes the term.
That is what lawyer say…
(The Minister of Information just said that Chavez may not be back for his new term)