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Venezuela frets over ill Chavez as 2013 begins

Published on Jan 2, 2013 6:07 AM
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A man walks past a mural of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez in Caracas were the streets are practically deserted on Jan 1, 2013. 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. -- PHOTO: AFP

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.

 
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