Unable to attend his own inauguration tomorrow due to complications from cancer/surgery, Hugo Chávez’s inauguration to a fourth presidential term has been postponed. Unsurprisingly, while his supporters claim the inauguration ceremony is merely a formality, opponents are calling on the Supreme Tribunal of Justice to make a ruling on the matter. Of course, how the court will rule later today is unclear; while many of the judges are Chávez-era appointees (under the 1999 constitution that created the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, judges are limited to one 12-year term), there’s nothing to indicate how they will rule on this particular matter.
Perhaps more importantly, the postponement of the inauguration raises some real questions about Chávez’s Bolivarian Revolution. When he won re-election back in October, I commented that it was unclear whether he would try to institutionalize the social changes he’s made in a way that would allow them to continue once he no longer ran the country, or whether he would continue to personally be both the face and the authority of the Bolivarian Revolution. The latest news suggests that, even if he were to institutionalize it, he did not have adequate time (or waited too long, depending on one’s perspective); certainly, his hand-picked successor, Nicolás Maduro, has been governing in his stead, but the fact that Chávez remains ill enough to not be able to attend the inauguration, creating constitutional uncertainty over whether or not he can “continue” without an inauguration, suggests his social program is still very much bound in Chávez the person. That’s not to say the Revolution will die with Chávez, but it may end up falling out of Chávez’s control sooner than he’d anticipated.