A DISCUSSION OF LAW AND JOURNALISM

Tag: Chavez

Presidential Disability in the Tropic of Cancer

25th Amendment

By José I. Ortiz

I admit it: I’m hooked on ABC’s hot political drama “Scandal”. I tried to resist all of the hype surrounding the show, but with lots of time on my hands over winter break, I gave in and watched every episode that had aired. Now they can’t come fast enough.

I never thought anything constructive would come from my new addiction, until one of this season’s episodes touched on a topic that interested me. On the show, the president of the United States was shot in the head and fell into a coma. The vice president saw an opportunity for her political career and quickly took over as “Acting President.”

This reminded me of something I’d read in a recent issue of The Economist

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez has been undergoing cancer treatments since 2011. To complicate an already delicate situation for any sitting president, he has been traveling to Cuba for these treatments. A spokesman announced early last month that Mr. Chávez suffered complications prior to his most recent operation in Havana and would not be able to return to Caracas for his January 10 inauguration.

Yes, Mr. Chávez recently won re-election and is now unable to make it to his own inauguration. Opposition politicians and journalists have questioned the government about Mr. Chávez’s true condition, and are told that the president is alive, kicking and soon to return to the job; the inauguration is merely postponed. The Venezuelan government reminds us that its constitution allows the president to postpone his inauguration by up to 180 days – more than enough time for Mr. Chávez to recuperate, so they say.

So I wondered – what if it happened here? Most of us know about the procedure to follow after the tragic death, resignation, or impeachment of a sitting U.S. president. Is there an established procedure for a Chávez/Scandal-like situation in the American legal system? LASIS investigates.

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