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Vice president conveys Chavez's thanks to military, authenticity questioned by opposition


13:38, January 17, 2013

CARACAS, Jan. 16 (Xinhua) -- Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro on Wednesday conveyed thanks from ailing President Hugo Chavez to the military for their "loyalty."

Maduro said at a Military Academy event in southwest Caracas that Chavez delivered a message on Monday to Science Minister Jorge Arreaza, who is with the president in Cuba.

In the message, Maduro said Chavez asked "us to convey to the armed forces, from the bottom of his heart, all his gratitude for so much loyalty from you towards him, a humble soldier of the country."

The president also told Arreaza, also his son-in-law, how content and appreciative he was with the military's "loyalty," and with the performance of his entire cabinet, legislators and governors, Maduro added.

Meanwhile, Chavez's signature appeared in the government's official gazette in a decree naming his new foreign minister.

Also on Wednesday, the National Armed Force (FAN) officially threw their support behind the decision to delay Chavez's inauguration for his third six-year term as president until his condition improved.

The postponement was upheld last week by the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) and now had the blessing of the military, Defense Minister Diego Molero said at the Military Academy event. < "Now more than ever," the military pledged its "subordination and unconditional loyalty to Hugo Chavez," said Molero.

Chavez, 58, has not been seen in public since undergoing cancer surgery in Cuba on Dec. 11.

Venezuela's Supreme Court announced on Jan. 9 a delay of the Jan. 10 inauguration, saying Chavez's "absence from the country should not be considered a temporary absence (from power)," and the swearing-in ceremony would take place "when the motive impeding it ceases."

Chavez's prolonged absence and a series of unilateral moves by the authorities including the swearing-in delay have drawn outcry and suspicion from the opposition that Chavez was too sick to rule the country.

The opposition has demanded an interim leader be named and a new election be held within 30 days should Chavez miss the swearing-in.

On Wednesday, the opposition, who has also demanded transparency over Chavez's health status, once more cast doubt over the authenticity of the message and the signature.

"If the president of the republic can sign decrees, I call on him to show himself and to talk to Venezuela and tell (the country) what is going on in the government, because what there is in Venezuela is misgovernment," said main opposition leader Henrique Capriles.

Chavez was first diagnosed with cancer in mid-2011 and had to leave for Cuba for his fourth round of cancer surgery weeks after he won the presidential election in October 2012.

The government's most recent status report on Chavez's health said he was making progress but still suffering from a "respiratory insufficiency" caused by a severe pulmonary infection. But it remained unclear how much longer he would stay in hospital in Cuba.

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