Venezuela frets over ill Chavez as 2013 begins
CARACAS (AFP) - Somber Venezuelans began 2013 fretting over their ubiquitous and garrulous leader Hugo Chavez, wondering what the future holds as the president wages a tough battle with cancer in a Havana hospital.
Mr Chavez won re-election in October and is supposed to be sworn in on Jan 10, but that seems up in the air now, stoking the prospect of major upheaval in a nation that sits atop the world's largest proven oil reserves.
If Chavez, who has completely dominated Venezuelan political life since taking power in 1999, is declared incapacitated before then - or dies - the Venezuela constitution demands that new elections are called within 30 days.
As Mr Chavez's health crisis has deepened, his handpicked political heir, vice-president Nicolas Maduro, a burly and mustachioed former bus driver and union leader, has been trying to look more prominent and statesmanlike.