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UPDATED: Venezuela: The opposition attempting to destabilize the country, the government hardly helping either

Posting's been light today because Venezuela demands attention and I've been watching, reading and listening to all sorts of things so far. The rhetoric, already shrill in the last few days, has ratcheted up several notches and the opposition's demands for more transparency around the state of Hugo Chávez has hit overdrive. On many levels this is understandable but there's a very fine line to tread here, so a comment today from Henrique Capriles that the Venezuela army "has a role to play", no matter the context in which a polemic phrase such as that is delivered, makes you wonder whether a line has just been crossed. Add to the mix the opposition media in Venezuela that's now trying its hardest to stoke nerves by relaying panic food purchase stories and we're entering the same kind of scenario that we saw in 2001 and 2002.

Meanwhile, the Chávez government isn't helping its own cause at all by continuing its obfuscating strategy (last night's official statement which said, literally and with little in the way of details, that Hugo Chávez's health situation was "stationary"... hopefully that means stable rather than anything to do with normal heart motion) and by moving and suggesting this-or-that rule bending (to see which option public opinion can stomach, methinks) adds uncertainty to the mix and does nothing to help restore calm. 

The big day will be January 10th, the supposed date of Chávez's reinauguration and that means there's another 48 hours to stoke the flames before a deadline is hit and some sort of resolution occurs. What happens then is anyone's guess...and that's the problem.

UPDATE: As you may have heard already (from about 10,000 news sources, here's one) the Venezuela government announced a few minutes ago that Chávez won't turn up on the 10th for the ceremony and according to article 231 of the constitution, the head of Congress, Diosdado Cabello* will assume interim power as Chávez is "not in conditions to take the oath and will do so later". The other get-out clause likely to be used here, for the time being at least, is article 234 which allows a head of state 90 days absence (in case of illness etc) at the discretion of Venezuela's congress. So in effect, the announcement today is the Chávez government kicking this can three months down the road and although the opposition will kick up a fuss, the government will probably get away with this as although it's a grey area and the interpretation of the constitution is up for debate, it's light grey rather than dark grey. If Chávez is still alive by then, set your clocks for early April.

PS: For those of you wanting real news in English on this rather than the reams of claptrap I've read today, here's Reuters.

*a name which translates literally as "God-given Hair", for what it's worth