Caracas, Venezuela Venezuela's high court late Monday denied ever ruling that President Hugo Chavez couldn't run if there are new elections, saying a statement purportedly from the court making that claim was a forgery.
The court said that someone rewrote a sentence of a ruling, which had been given to reporters earlier Monday. It said that the forgery read that the justices had decided that Chavez wouldn't be able to run if he were to lose a possible recall referendum later this year.
In a statement posted on its Web site late Monday, the court said that the ruling released to reporters was fraudulent, different from the one it actually approved.
The Supreme Court said it was investigating the incident and did not disclose the real ruling was or explain how it had been altered.
The ruling described as a forgery said Venezuela's Constitution made clear a president cannot seek re-election immediately after losing a recall referendum.
Some opposition leaders initially applauded the decision that later the court said was a fake. Venezuela's splintered opposition cannot agree on a candidate to challenge Chavez. Recent polls suggest Venezuela would vote 2 to 1 to oust Chavez in a referendum -- but indicate he could win an election against several opposition candidates.
Opponents of Chavez turned in almost 3 million signatures earlier this month to demand a referendum on ending his presidency.
Foes accuse Chavez of trying to amass power, fueling class hatred, and alienating investment with "revolutionary" rhetoric. The president says an "oligarchy" bent on ousting a democratically elected leader has sabotaged his efforts to fight for the poor.
Fresh elections must be held if Chavez loses a referendum within the first four years of his presidency. If the vote occurs in the last two years, Venezuela's vice president would serve out the remainder of Chavez's term. He is halfway through his six-year term.
Chavez's opponents want the vote held by the end of the year, arguing it would help stabilize a country where polarization over Chavez's leftist policies provoked a botched 2002 military coup and a crippling general strike earlier this year.
Several hurdles stand in the way of the vote, including verifying signatures, updating voter rolls and designating hundreds of regional election authorities.
Chavez has vowed to challenge the legality of the petition, insisting many of the signatures are forged.
Some Chavez supporters are insisting that referendums on the terms of other elected officials be held before the presidential one.