Vice President Nicolas Maduro, whom Chavez had picked to rule in his absence, led the government in its new term on Thursday after the Supreme Court unanimously decided that the current government could remain in office until Chavez takes the oath.
The court emphasized that Chavez has permission to swear in “on a later occasion before the Supreme Court.”
“It is a historic day, because it is the start of President Chavez’s 2013-19 mandate,” Maduro said.
Meanwhile, thousands of people convened outside the Miraflores Palace in Caracas to show their support.
Presidents of South American countries, including Uruguay, Bolivia and Nicaragua, have also expressed their backing.
Chavez, who first came to power in 1999, was re-elected to a new six-year term in October. However, a month before the planned inauguration, he underwent a fourth round of cancer surgery in Cuba’s capital Havana.