* President has not been seen in a month
* Chavez missed Jan. 10 inauguration ceremony
* Top court says he can be sworn in later
By Daniel Wallis and Diego Ore
CARACAS, Jan 11 Venezuela's Vice President
Nicolas Maduro will fly to Cuba on Friday to visit
cancer-stricken Hugo Chavez, a month after the socialist leader
underwent his fourth operation in 18 months.
The 58-year-old president has not been seen nor heard from
since the surgery, and has suffered multiple post-operative
complications including a severe lung infection.
He missed his own inauguration on Thursday, but the Supreme
Court said he could be sworn in later - in theory meaning he
could remain in office for weeks or months from a Havana
hospital. There has been no firm evidence he is conscious.
"I'm going to give our commander-president the good news
about how the people are working, making revolution with
courage, discipline and enthusiasm," Maduro said in a televised
Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, a friend and ally of
Venezuela's socialist leader, was visiting Cuba on Friday and
said on Twitter she planned to take Chavez a Bible.
The vice president said Peru's President Ollanta Humala -
whom he called another "comrade in arms" of Chavez - was also
expected in Havana on Friday.
Unlike after Chavez's previous cancer operations in Cuba,
the government has published no photos or video of the former
soldier's recovery. Neither has he made any of his normally
frequent phone calls back home to Venezuelan state television.
While Maduro has said he spoke to Chavez by telephone and in
person during a previous visit to Havana, his comment on Dec. 24
that the president had been up walking and doing exercises was
met by derision from many in the South American country.
Perhaps more than anything, the silence from the normally
garrulous leader famous for his lengthy diatribes has led many
to believe his 14 years in power may be coming to an end.
In his absence, government officials were forced to postpone
a ceremony on Thursday to swear him in for the new six-year term
that he won at a presidential election in October.
A clutch of Latin American and Caribbean leaders attended a
rally that went ahead in Caracas regardless, where thousands of
red-shirted loyalists held aloft copies of the constitution and
were symbolically sworn-in in Chavez's place.
His condition is a top concern of officials in Cuba and
other allied nations whose leftist governments have long
benefited from years of Chavez's oil-fueled generosity.
Maduro, a former bus driver and union leader who shares his
boss's radical views, is in charge of day-to-day government
until there is clarity over whether the president will return.
He has sought to imitate Chavez's bombastic rhetoric in
speeches, but struggles to emulate the folksy charisma of the
president, who grew up in humble surroundings and became one of
the world's best-known heads of state.
Venezuela's opposition leaders are furious at what they see
as a Cuban-inspired manipulation of the constitution by Maduro
and other top "Chavista" figures aimed at preventing the naming
of a caretaker president due to Chavez's absence.
Should Chavez die or have to step down, a new election would
be called and would likely pit Maduro against opposition leader
Henrique Capriles, the 40-year-old governor of Miranda state.