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Venezuela: A State Plot Vs. the Recall

By Democracy and Development

The opposition will not take power no matter what! This was the most recent statement by Chávez about the petition by 3,432,866 citizens asking for the recall (RR) of the presidential mandate in keeping with Art. 72 of the Constitution. The warning was issued in the speech in the evening of 13 April, while celebrating “my return to power two years ago, event forever recorded in pages of world history.” The statement grossly explains the concerted operation by the Executive, the National Assembly, the National Electoral Council (NEC) and The (SC) Constitutional Hall to stop the recall. In Venezuela Today, we have analyzed in detail the elements of this operation, which some jurists consider a conspiracy of the State vs. the RR.

The SC through the Electoral Hall, while exercising its constitutional competence, reopened the road to the RR (03-15-04). As a response, officialdom asked Constitutional Hall to keep on hold all recourses relating to referenda.

Constitutional Hall declared the propriety of said action and pressed Electoral Hall to ignore the voiding action vs. the NEC deeds, under the threat of contempt. The president of Constitutional Hall indicates that on 31 March, the decision regarding actions by Electoral Hall was made but that the instruction was not given until 12 April. An official member of Constitutional Hall claimed he had not been called to the meeting while one other said that he was not given the opportunity to present the saved vote –a must requirement to publish the decision-. The common view of the national judicial community is that the Constitutional Hall decision is affected by several vices, namely: it approves the violation of the right to participate proposed by the NEC; it violates the universal norm of the irretroactivity of laws and the principle of non-derogation of deeds of superior category by those of inferior category; it violates the Constitution and its own jurisprudence, according to which only decisions definitely firm may be subject to constitutional revision.

Also, on 12 April, Electoral Hall ratified its competence to know about the cause; it stated the voiding of instruments used by NEC to propose that “assisted signatures” be placed under question; it also accepted as proper the amparo cautelar requested; it ordered the NEC to validate 876,017 signatures it had placed “under observation,” and that the procedure of negative reservation be applied to said petitions, in order to allow citizens who claimed they had not signed to ask for their exclusion. It also ordered the NEC to include in said negative process invalidated signatures due to voiding instructions; it also ordered that once these new mandates be fulfilled, to call for the RR, while verifying the constitutional quorum. Electoral Hall presented a conflict of competence with Constitutional Hall before Plenary Hall.

On the 12th as well, the NEC announced it did not abide by Electoral Hall’s decision. On Thursday 15th -Jorge Rodríguez- officialdom’s strongman at NEC called a press conference to announce the methodology of signature objection. DCG representatives stated that under such circumstances the opposition would not be part of the process. Rodríguez asked them to clarify the terms under which they would participate: these were presented and Rodríguez offered to receptively study them.

Analysts in Venezuela Today are of the view that for understanding this controversy at the SC, it must be pinpointed that our Constitutional Hall does not have the same hierarchy or competencies as European Constitutional Courts do (which are the source of some Latin American Constitutions). In Venezuela, it is one of many (6) Halls within the Supreme Court with equal hierarchy, each one with exclusive and excluding competencies. Electoral disputes belong to Electoral Hall. Constitutional Hall can only review definitely firm amparo constitucional decisions and those related to control of constitutionality. Competencies conflicts between Halls are dealt with at Plenary Hall, which practically is the peak of the pyramid of constitutional jurisdiction.

It has been announced that Constitutional Hall will dictate a response regarding the decision by Electoral Hall. Likewise, there are expectations on the fact that NEC is planning to present its final opinion on mechanisms to be applied to the negative recourse process. Electoral Hall gave a time schedule for the fulfillment of its decision, upon which both Electoral and Constitutional Halls could dictate the mandatory execution of its decisions, which could unleash a conflict of unpredictable consequences: in any case, enticing a climate of institutional anarchy.


People remembered –The Count of Montecristo-the famous novel by A. Dumas, when details came to be known about how eight soldiers suffered serious burns in a punishment cell at a military fortress. It was revealed that in the barracks, a soldier at fault –whether true or in the perception of an officer, is punished by being locked up in a dungeon while suffering as Edmundo Dantes and Abbot Farías at If Castle as described by the famous novelist. It became scandalous when Chávez said that “the mass media of homelandless oligarchs” deformed the accident. “Injuries of soldiers are minor ones.” Hours later one passed away while another was struggling between life and death. Additionally, Lt. Chacón –Minister of Information- resigned “irrevocably…” as he was who mistakenly told the President. Chávez did not accept the resignation and exonerated the lieutenant from any responsibility. Likewise he exonerated authorities at the fortress and the military zone. The last official version –several have been offered- is that fire at the punishment cell was provoked by the soldiers.

The most respected NGOs demanded a serious inquiry and warned vs. the risk of insensitivity by Venezuelan society before daily human rights violations. They alerted about impunity protecting the brutal repression vs. demonstrators attempting to present a document at the G-15 Meeting. Said barbaric repression took place countrywide during several days. Venezuelans –in whose historic memory, political repression is the worst stigma of satanized regimes of Juan Vicente Gómez and Marcos Pérez Jiménez- received with awe and panic the witnessing of the military, politicians and common citizens, all subject to the same modality of torture applied by policepeople and prison guards under those dictators.

Human Rights Watch, -warning it does not take sides in the Venezuelan political conflict- sent a message to Chávez (04-09-04) requesting that he conduct impartial inquiries of cases documented by that organization: 13 dead demonstrators between 27 February and 5 March; 119 wounded –49 by firearms-; over 300 detained during protests; who reported to Human Rights Watch of beatings through a variety of means during their arrest and time of detention. Numerous detainees witnessed that military police carried clubs with which they applied electroshocks; sprayed teargas and pepper on faces and bodies; placed pistols in mouths to force them into saying they had been paid to demonstrate or to declare themselves to be homosexuals. Numerous detainees –as well- said that while in detention they were forced to chant Chavista slogans while those resisting to do so were beaten . Almost all stated that before being released they were severely threatened with terrible reprisals if they would go and tell the mass media. Others were forced to sign a release stating they had not been mistreated. Vicepresident Rangel officially answered: “I have the worst opinion of Human Rights.” A dogmatic doubt of national and international organizations formulating charges on human rights violations. In his view, the Commission and the Inter American Human Rights Tribunal are part of the U. S. plot vs. the revolution and Venezuelan NGOs are tools at the service of Golpistas.


As usual, Chávez attempted to distract public attention towards different issues. In Aló Presidente (04-04), he had said that Catholic Bishops –like Judas- were enemies of the people. With his habitual histrionic gestures, grasping a cross and taking on the demeanor of a circus preacher, asked for the forgiveness of God, “they are a fake, Pharisees allied with the oligarchy.” In the following Aló Presidente (04-11) where he tried but failed to explain the tragic soldier episode he again blasted the Catholic Church, especially vs. Rosalío, Cardinal Castillo Lara and Archbishop Baltazar Porras, President of The Conference of Catholic Bishops of Venezuela (CEV). The ire was obvious because of the message from Catholic Bishops in an Extraordinary Assembly on the Eve of Holy Week. In keeping with their on-going defense of human rights, it denounced the “excessive repression by security forces, with the tragic balance of dead, detained, tortured and humiliated citizens.” The Church called attention dramatically on the threat to national peace, the urgency to stop and overcome the grown divisiveness and aggressiveness. “The progressive deterioration of institutions, the threat of a national collapse, the temptation to resort to violence to settle social and political differences, make us support a popular inquiry in order to seek a peaceful, democratic, electoral solution to the country’s crisis… to unduly avoid or delay the exercise of this right while resorting to barriers and legalisms, is a serious injustice, contradicts important commitments by parties in conflict and becomes a threat to peace.” The text adds that the country cannot anymore tolerate the polarization confronting good and bad; patriots and golpistas. In calm manner it rejects the imposition of a political model of an excluding, authoritarian country totalitarian tendencies. It concludes calling for a dialogue towards a commitment by all for the building of a new model allowing the eradication of poverty while overcoming exclusions.

Offensive words by Chávez vs. Archbishop Porras and Cardinal Castillo Lara provoked a strong reaction from these and from other top Church authorities and different sectors nationwide. On Tuesday the 13th , Porras’s journey to the Vatican was made known -to inform on the on-going attacks vs. the Church and the overall situation in the country-.

The repeated clashes between Chávez and the Catholic Church have reached such point of malaise that Chancellor Pérez acknowledged it. The most diverse speculations are offered on the possible outcome of the cringing of relations between Venezuela’s President and the Holy See. In his strategy of permanent domestic confrontation and vs. the most important players in the international community, Chávez has tightened the rope to such perilous limits that the only predictable scenario is one of imminent conflicts, both internal and external.

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