Top news: Still battling complications from cancer surgery in Cuba, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez will not return to his country in time to be sworn in for his fourth term at a scheduled Thursday inauguration, a delay that is likely to pitch Venezuela into a constitutional crisis.
In a statement read to the National Assembly Tuesday, Vice President Nicolas Maduro said that "the medical team working to reestablish [Chavez's] health agrees that the postoperative recovery period should extend past Jan. 10, and so he will not be able to appear before the National Assembly on that date." In response, the legislative body approved an unlimited absence for the ailing Chavez.
Chavez has not been seen or heard from in nearly a month and is reportedly battling a respiratory infection stemming from an operation to treat cancer. In his absence, Chavez's allies have moved to consolidate control of the government. Earlier this week, the legislature elected Diosdado Cabello, a Chavez ally, as the head of the National Assembly. If Chavez is unable to return, Cabello will temporarily assume power and be charged with setting up new presidential elections.
The dispute now turns on two differing interpretations of the Venezuelan constitution. Chavez's allies claim that a provision of the constitution allowing the president to be sworn in before the supreme court as an alternative to the national legislature indicates that there is no hard deadline for the president to assume office. The opposition disputes that interpretation and has called for the country's supreme court to step in and settle the matter. "There is no monarchy here, and we aren't in Cuba," Henrique Capriles, a state governor who was defeated by Chavez at the polls in October, said Tuesday.
Syria: In the largest prisoner swap since the start of the Syrian conflict, the government began releasing more than 2,000 prisoners in exchange for a group of 48 Iranians held by Syrian rebels.
- A tentative deal has been reached to end a newsroom strike over censorship controls at a southern Chinese newspaper.
- The White House said that it is considering not leaving a residual force in Afghanistan following the end of the NATO mission in 2014.
- One of two Indian soldiers killed in an attack by Pakistani forces was beheaded.
- Amid a debate over the United Kingdom's future in the European Union, business leaders are urging Prime Minister David Cameron not to "risk" the country's membership.
- Business morale rose for the second straight month in the eurozone, which also saw rising unemployment.
- Polish prosecutors opened an investigation to examine allegations that a Swedish artist used ashes from a Nazi deathcamp in Poland in a painting.
- Ahead of peace talks with the government, M23 rebels declared a unilateral ceasefire.
- Police arrested 50 striking farm workers amid a confrontation between laborers and police in an area of South Africa vital to the country's wine production.
- A massive fire struck a waterfront slum in Lagos, Nigeria.
- Colombia's attorney general reopened an investigation into former President Alvaro Uribe's ties to right-wing paramilitary groups during his time as a state governor.
- According to a domestic newspaper report, former Brazilian President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva will be investigated over allegations that he knew about a cash-for-votes scheme.
- Four people were mauled to death by wild dogs in Mexico.
- Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy will mediate talks between Fatah and Hamas aimed at implementing a unity pact between the two groups.
- A winter storm has brought miserable conditions to refugee camps for those who have fled the war in Syria.
- With Egypt rapidly running out of cash amid efforts to prop up its currency, Qatar stepped in to offer the country an additional $2.5 billion in aid.