President Hugo Chavez, in Cuba for cancer treatment, named key members of a Council of State Wednesday led by his vice president, which some analysts see as a potential transitional body.
The president, staffed the council, a consultative body led by Vice President Elias Jaua that had existed only on paper since the 1999 Constitution, raising eyebrows as Venezuelans fret about their leader's health.
Members include Jaua; Ambassador to the OAS Roy Chaderton; UN human rights council envoy German Mundarain; writer Luis Britto Garcia and Admiral Carlos Rafael Giacopini, the state-run Official Gazette reported.
Chavez's cancer, first detected in his pelvic area in June 2011, was found to have recurred in February.
Since surgery to remove the new lesion, he has undergone repeated rounds of treatment in Communist-ruled Cuba, his closest regional ally. He last returned from Havana on April 26.
The 57-year-old Chavez, who is running for a third six-year term in the October 7 election, has never publicly revealed the kind of cancer he has or its exact location, and his health has been the subject of intense speculation.
Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro skirted reporters' questions as to whether the council was any kind of transitional body, given Chavez's health crisis, as many analysts have suggested.
"Everyone knows the president's health is delicate, so his setting up the Council of State now cannot be good news," political analyst John Magdaleno told AFP.
"It might be used as a potential transition body, or in case the president becomes incapacitated and cannot work, or to prepare some extraordinary measures," he added.
Chavez, in power since 1999, is running for reelection as a "revolutionary socialist" against Henrique Capriles, the youthful Miranda state governor and center-left candidate for the united opposition.
Leaders in Chavez's party on Monday held a press conference to deny press reports that they were considering other options for the October 7 election.
Earlier this month, Chavez put his health and political future in the spotlight, begging at a pre-Easter mass: "Please don't take me yet."
"Give me your crown of thorns, Christ, I will bleed; Give me your cross -- 100 crosses -- and I will carry them for you. But give me life, because I still have things to do for my people and my country," Chavez said.
Chavez is the most prominent face of the left in Latin America, and has rallied a group of like-minded leaders as a counterweight to the United States.© ANP/AFP