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Venezuela: Reactions to the Supreme Court’s (TSJ) decision.

By Ismael Pérez Vigil, Political Scientist

Caracas, March 16, 2004 - It is the Russians’ turn to play. *NdeT As we already know and as Quirós Corradi reminded us, the Russians play also; it would be easier if they wouldn’t, but in this match we are not alone. The Government is silent, the Miraflores’ tenant awaits for weakening signs and saves himself for the last, he knows his intervention is decisive, but at the same time most irritating; therefore, they launch first their dogs of war, the light brigade: Ismael García, Freddy Bernal, Juan Barreto and Darío Vivas, whose mission, as we know is to be the first shock troops, the clumsy, exaggerated, stammering, yet immediate answer. They mark “highest” for negotiations, they are the prelude to intimidation. Later, it will be the turn for the Bolivarian Circles, Lina Ron and company.

The National Assembly acts in parallel; as do its heavy weights (Maduro, Tascon, Iris Valera). Since some of them are in Europe and the United States in a informative- tourist tour, and others (William Saab, Lara y Ortega) are possibly in electoral campaign —which is, by the way, illegal, without having the CNE (National Electoral Committee) say anything— the ineffable board of directors acting as scouting party and in an open abuse of power and public resources, published an announcement disregarding the decision of the Electoral Court of the TSJ. For its part, the embassy in Washington, which has become an actor in this electoral matter, in a confused communiqué, riddled with mistakes, wherein it even resuscitates the former Supreme Court, sets itself as constitutional interpreter and passes judgment stating that insofar as the Electoral Court, the decision is illegal “…it does not have competence to make decisions in constitutional matters”.

This is the way to orchestrate a ploy and there is no difference among actors, an embassy is the same as a Mayor, as a deputy, as the board of the National Assembly or the CNE, as the Attorney General, all are members of the same team and play to the same strategic tune dictated by Miraflores.

Then the master move follows: the mellifluous Jorge Rodríguez, of the CNE, finishes to uncover the official game: to bet on an institutional crisis in the TSJ, the conflict of competences between two Courts. In an unusual statement, Jorge Rodríguez says the CNE will only obey the Constitutional Court, that they would wait to hear what this Court of Iván Rincón, Delgado Ocando and Cabrera has to say. Apparently according to Jorge Rodríguez, they do not recognize anybody else, they only have one master: “We will comply only with the assignments made by the Constitutional Court pursuant to the Law, since said Court is the only one that can issue such orders” (Statement according to the El Nacional Web page).

The strangest thing is the lack of inhibition with which coincidences among the State’s “Independent Powers” take place. CNE member Jorge Rodríguez uses the same arguments used in the past by the Attorney General, bearing the same last name, Isaías Rodríguez, who pointed out that the decision of the Electoral Court seemed to have all characteristics of a decision of content and not of a preventive measure. According to the Attorney General, the Electoral Court exceeds its attributions and incurs in “procedural irregularity”. Rodríguez, the Attorney General, a bit more knowledgeable of the judiciary territory than Rodríguez, the Psychiatrist, the one from the CNE, knows that this could be the only way for the Constitutional Court to intervene in this process. Of course, we can already bet that the allegations made by the CNE to have the measure reconsidered, will follow this course. Already outlined by Carlos Escarrá, the deux ex machina of the regime’s constitutional law. Still to join is the People’s Defender, who must be on tour in the United States, explaining how the Government did not violate the people’s human rights, which he must defend. But once he arrives he will quickly catch up and surely introduce a petition before the TSJ, or some kind of recourse, or will read a letter on VTV, against the violation of “the people’s rights”, without noticing that what the Electoral Court is asking, as a matter of fact, is to allow the people to vote.

Precisely, before a preventive measure—as the one dictated yesterday by the Electoral Court— there is no possible appeal, its effects are to be executed immediately; therefore, the “recourse” left, politically, is not to obey it and create a crisis whenever they try to force it judicially; legally, and it means to introduce a revision “recourse” of the decision citing that the preventive, provisional decision, rules in reality on the substance: the legal character of the CNE’s instructions, requested to be annulled. That was precisely what the CNE’s Vice-President, Ezequiel Zamora reminded and —to deepen the evident division inside the electoral committee and to emphasize that Jorge Rodríguez statement is not the body’s decision— declared on his part that the Electoral Court’s sentence cannot be reviewed, because it is not a final judgment. True, the Electoral Court was very careful to shield its decision and was clear when pointing out that it was not making a pronouncement on the substance, yet. When will it make the pronouncement?, that is the good question, which entails a better or a strategic answer.

As long as it does not make a pronouncement on the substance, the Constitutional Court ha no subject to deal with, even though we know that the Constitutional Court magistrates do not think twice before overstepping their power to issue interpretations. It would not be surprising if someone would consult about the use of nail clippers in the TSJ building or if the Constitutional Court would use the opportunity to pronounce itself on the judgment by the Electoral Court, annulling the decision and creating then a real crisis that would deserve the intervention of the Full Court.

The dispute will soon be reinforced by the dirty war launched by the Vice-Presidency and supported by Ministers Diosdado Cabello and Jesse Chacón.

It did not take long for the Vice-President to make a statement with his usual “dignified” tone and acting as the autocracy’s agitator, calling “immoral”, “subversive” and “gangster-like” the Electoral Court’s decision and to establish the Government’s guidelines, already disclosed by the other “independent” powers—the Attorney General and the CNE— the Government will only acknowledge decisions made by the Constitutional Court, because “to their judgment, the latter instance has jurisdiction in matters concerning the CNE and the same safeguards the 1999 Constitution.” (Union Radio’s Web page).

But the shots come from both sides, and as to not give peace to either party, a lawyer already introduced before the Full Court of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, preliminary actions to bring charges against the three judges of the Constitutional Court, (Iván Rincón, José Delgado Ocando and Jesús Eduardo Cabrera). The lawyer accuses them of “false act”, which they presumably infringed in last Friday, when the Constitutional Court issued the written communication asking the Electoral Court to withdraw from hearing the summary proceedings to guarantee constitutional rights concerning the referendum, without having the required quorum for its approval. We don not know how much this could affect the case, but evidently it does make noise and prepares a better scenario in case the Constitutional Court pronounces judgment, which is what we all expect, to continue the course towards the Full Court, which should settle as a last resort. There the game was 10 to 10; do they continue so? Many remember the decision on the case of the military accused of perpetrating a coup d’état on April 2002, which absolved the accused, 11 votes for and 9 against. Will the President of the Republic run the risk, or will he prefer to go for elections before his weakness becomes more evident? Well, it is always possible to believe that is the last card before the end.

For the time being those are only skirmishes; the deaf resistance of Chávez Frías’ government before a decision that puts its Government against the wall and makes it face what it has been avoiding for over a year: the popular vote. Since the Vice-President already made a statement, President Chávez Frías will probably do so also at any time; or maybe he will save the moment for after the Constitutional Court pronounces judgment. If this is the case, we can already imagine the strong language of the presidential volley. We shall listen again to the president’s flowery language, similar to the one he used when the not guilty verdict in favor of the officers who participated in the April 2002 events was ruled.

*NdeT This refers to a football anecdote. Before a game between the Russian and the Brazilian teams, the Brazilian coach explained to his players the different passes and strategies to beat the Russians. All instances were about Brazilian players combining passes to outsmart the opponents, until one player interrupted the coach and asked: “Tell me something, don’t the Russians play?”

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