President-elect Tancredo Neves underwent emergency surgery early today for an intestinal inflammation only hours before his scheduled inauguration before the Congress.
Aecio Neves, a nephew of the president-elect and his personal secretary, said the operation had been successful.
Congressional leaders said the inaugural ceremonies, marking the return to civilian rule here after 21 years of military rule, would go forward as planned.
Government spokesman Antonio Britto said Vice President-elect Jose Sarney will be sworn in today as Neves' legal substitute. Neves will be inaugurated later.
"There is no cause for worry. The constitution will be observed," said Ulises Guimaraes, president of the Chamber of Deputies.
Neves, 75 years old, underwent surgery at the Civil Servants' Hospital for what was initially diagnosed as acute appendicitis. But later, the attending physicians said that his severe abdominal pains had been caused by diverticulitis, an intestinal inflammation.
Aluisio Alves, a politician close to Neves, said that attending physicians had said that Neves "will be able to assume the presidency in a few days."
President's Term Ends
Under the constitution, the six-year term of President Joao Baptista Figueiredo ends today.
Neves has enjoyed good health during the last six months, during which he actively campaigned for the presidency. On Thursday, he attended a Roman Catholic Mass offered by Archbishop Jose Revende of Belo Horizonte, the capital of Neves' home state of Minas Gerais. Neves flew to the national capital in the afternoon. The president-elect was stricken at his home during the night.
Sarney, a senator from the state of Marnahao, was elected vice president as Neves' partner in a coalition of two opposition parties that won a majority in the electoral college Jan. 15. Neves belongs to the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, the largest in the Brazilian Congress. Sarney belongs to the new Liberal Alliance Party.
When Neves was taken to the hospital, this inland capital filled with international political figures and well-wishers for the inauguration, was swept with rumors. Uncertainty over the succession produced violent arguments between deputies and senators from the two parties in the Neves coalition.
Members of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party wanted Guimaraes, who is president of the party as well as president of the Chamber of Deputies, to occupy the presidency until Neves was fit to take up his duties.
But hasty consultations between the Congressional leadership and leading constitutional lawyers determined that Sarney could be sworn in independently of Neves and would be his legal substitute.