Austin Hill

Some Venezuelans are concerned that their President might be violating their nation’s Constitution.

So, where have these Venezuelans been for the past 14 years? And do any Americans have the same concerns about their own President?

The headlines emerged about a week ago on January 7th. In a hastily arranged press conference, the leadership of the Venezuelan Catholic Church announced that delaying President Hugo Chavez' inauguration would be a "morally unacceptable" violation of their national constitution. According to the Venezuelan constitution, Chavez’ term in office was to have officially ended on January 10th, whereupon he would have been sworn in to his next (and fourth) term in office.

However, Chavez has been ill with cancer for the past 18 months or so – at least we think that’s what is going on. Depending on what “news” source you’re reading, he’s either near death, or he’s just resting up as he regains strength on the road to recovery. In any event, Venezuela’s Attorney-General Cilia Flores and the collective voice of the Venezuelan National Assembly (the legislature) all agreed to hold the next Chavez inauguration ceremony when Chavez is ready. According to them, the constitutional date of January 10th isn’t that big of a deal, and things will just have to happen according to Hugo’s schedule.

On this point, it may be of interest to some that the 13th Vice President of the United States actually missed his official inauguration, and was sworn-in to office at a hospital located in – of all places - Cuba. In fact, William R. King didn’t even campaign with presidential candidate Franklin Pierce back in 1852, because he was severely ill with tuberculosis, and he never served one day of his Vice Presidency on American soil. After President Pierce’s inauguration, a “special act of Congress” allowed King to swear his oath of office bedside in Havana, the same bed where he died a few weeks later in 1853.

But Venezuela’s accommodations of Chavez have forced some important questions to the table. How ill is Chavez, really? Who is actually acting as President right now? Why are other constitutionally elected officials in the Venezuelan government so beholden to Chavez, and so ambivalent about their nation’s laws? And how legitimate is the current Venezuelan government – or for that matter, Chavez’ alleged landslide re-election last October?

Austin Hill

Austin Hill is an Author, Consultant, and Host of "Austin Hill's Big World of Small Business," a syndicated talk show about small business ownership and entrepreneurship. He is Co-Author of the new release "The Virtues Of Capitalism: A Moral Case For Free Markets." , Author of "White House Confidential: The Little Book Of Weird Presidential History," and a frequent guest host for Washington, DC's 105.9 WMAL Talk Radio.