The government said earlier this week that Chavez was in a "stable situation" receiving treatment due to a severe respiratory infection. The government has said he is coping with "respiratory deficiency," but hasn't said how severe it is.
The stances of the government and the Supreme Court have been criticized by legal scholars such as Vicente Gonzalez de la Vega, a law professor at Central University of Venezuela, who said the Supreme Court has effectively consummated a sort of "coup d'etat."
"How can it say that the president isn't absent and he's in his duties when he can't even sign a letter?" Gonzalez told the AP.
Francisco Madrid, a businessman and opposition supporter, called the Supreme Court's decision "shameful."
"It's proof that all branches of the state respond to the government's interests," Madrid said while walking in downtown Caracas. He also complained that while the government is focused on such issues, there are shortages of foods such as sugar, chicken and flour.
Associated Press writers Vivian Sequera and Christopher Toothaker contributed to this report.
AP Interactive: http://hosted.ap.org/interactives/2012/venezuela/
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.