Opposition lawmakers declared an emergency and decried the court's ruling as a sign that Chavez's party had swayed the country's judiciary.
In an interview with CNN en Español on Wednesday evening, lawmaker Maria Corina Machado asked for international bodies such as the Organization of American States to weigh in on what she said was a "serious alteration of constitutional order."
"Today Venezuela is practically without a head of state," she said.
Meanwhile, Wednesday night, Vice President Nicolas Maduro headed up a Cabinet meeting and welcomed a group of regional foreign ministers.
In remarks broadcast on national television, he said the court's decision was "sacred," stressed that Chavez's government remains intact and accused the opposition of ignoring the constitution and trying to stir up trouble.
"In Venezuela, the revolution continues with more strength than ever," Maduro said.
Supporters and critics of Chavez both point to the country's constitution but offer wildly different interpretations of what it says.
Henrique Capriles, the man Chavez defeated at the polls in October, said after Wednesday's ruling that members of the opposition should focus on bigger battles.
He said Venezuela's government is "paralyzed" and accused Chavez's allies of trying to instigate conflict by threatening the opposition rather than fixing the country's problems.
"We have a responsibility to drive toward a destination that is not conflict, nor is it war, nor is it anything that the government is trying to push," he said. "We have to dedicate all of our energy, all of our actions, so that all Venezuelans have peace and tranquility."
'Faith that our comandante will return'
Chavez has not been seen in public and officials have not released any photographs of him since he arrived in Havana for his fourth cancer operation in early December, fueling speculation that his health is worse than the government is letting on.
It's a hot topic on the streets of the country's capital.
"We have faith that our comandante will return to Venezuela and with good health," Caracas resident Nicolas Medina said.
He said he wasn't worried about unrest as inauguration day approached.
"Nothing is going to happen," Medina said. "It's going to be a normal day. The sun is going to shine and the sun will go down and the 11th will begin."
Others say they have faith, but want more proof that the president is recovering. Caracas resident Rommel Quintera said he wants to see a message directly from the president, who in the past has called into state television to provide updates while he recuperated from cancer treatment in Cuba.
"None of us know anything about him -- some say he is dead, or he's not dead -- we have to wait," Quintera said. "We need to hear from him what has happened. He is a president who has always given answers to the people. In small things and big, he has always shown his face for everything."
As night fell on Caracas Wednesday, debates over the country's future filled the airwaves. Chavez's voice remained notably absent.