Last night, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) issued a ruling in which it sidestepped the National Assembly and declared Maduro’s Economic Emergency Decree valid and in effect. Three weeks ago, the National Assembly debated the decree over the course of eight days and voted to reject it.
The TSJ ruled that by waiting eight days to vote on the decree, the National Assembly violated a procedural norm established in a case dating back to 2005 that required similar measures to be address within 48 hours. The court ruled that by not addressing the decree within 48 hours, the National Assembly essentially allowed it to enter into force by default.
The decision means that the economic emergency decree has been in effect since January 14. It is set to expire on March 16, at which time Maduro will be able to extend it if he wishes to.
NA Instructed To Take 8 Days, Not 48 hours
On January 15 – one day after announcing the economic emergency decree – Maduro presented his state of the union address before the National Assembly. After Maduro’s speech, National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup presented his rebuttal, and brought up the matter of the decree.
At one point, Allup asked Maduro – who was sitting directly beside him – if the National Assembly had 48 hours or 8 days to debate the decree. The chief magistrate of the TSJ, Gladys Gutierrez, was sitting immediately to Allup’s left. The answer Allup received at that moment was loud and unambiguous: the National Assembly had 8 days to debate the matter.
As he stood between Maduro and chief magistrate Gutierrez on January 15, Allup said:
Look – another thing. You’ve brought us the economic emergency decree today. There are two interpretations: one which says that we have to make a decision on this in 48 hours, and another that we have eight days to do it. Is it eight days? [Yelling from the PSUV bench: “Yes, it’s eight!”] Ok, great; then we have 8 days to examine this thoroughly and ask — it’s better to have eight days because we can talk about it more. And you know, we don’t use interpellation as a tool irritate. We’ll need to ask some government officials for more information, and of course we can count on President Maduro’s attendance.
Below is a clip of the exchange, which lasts from around 26:30 to 27:20:
Decree Gives Maduro Vague Set of Powers
The section below is copied and pasted from the update that appeared on this blog on January 15, 2016 titled “Economic Emergency”.
Ultimas Noticias published a list of the special measures the executive could take during the 60-day economic emergency:
- Make use of the resources made available in the 2015 budget with the goal of guaranteeing investment to safeguard the continued operation of social programs, investment in productive infrastructure, agriculture and industry, and the timely supplying of food and other products necessary for life.
- Assign extraordinary resources to projects, be they identified in the budget or not, to institutions and entities in public administration in order to optimize service to Venezuelans when it comes to health, education, nutrition and homes.
- Design and implement special measures in order to immediately reduce tax evasion.
- Do away with the modes and requirements of public contracts for organizations and entities that offer contracts in certain sectors with the goal of speeding up purchases by the State that [it deems to be] of an urgent character within the lifetime of this decree.
- Use the procedures and requirements needed for the exporting and importing of merchandise.
- Implement special measures to speed up the flow of merchandise through the sea and air ports of the country.
- Do away with the exchange procedures established by CENCOEX and by the Banco Central de Venezuela with respect to public organizations and entities with the goal of speeding up and guaranteeing the importing of goods or raw materials that are indispensable to keep the country supplied.
- Require public and private businesses to increase their levels of production, along with the supply of determined raw materials to the country’s food production centres and that of essential goods to guarantee the satisfaction of the Venezuelan people’s basic necessities.
- Adopt all necessary measures to guarantee prompt access of the population to food, medicine and other basic necessities.
- Adopt measures to stimulate foreign investment to the benefit of the country’s productive apparatus, along with that of the exporting of non-traditional products as a means to create new jobs, [and bring in more] foreign currency and incomes.
- Develop, strengthen and protect the gran mision [social service] and socialist social services system with the goal of encouraging the creation of small and medium-size producers, be they [originating from] communities, privately, through the state or as a mixture of all.
The wording of the possible measures has come under criticism from experts due to their vagueness.
Ramos Allup: Auto-Coup Has Begun
The President of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, reacted to the TSJ sentence earlier today, saying that the TSJ had “interpreted the Constitution in contraction of the text”. Allup also said that the TSJ does not have to ability to sidestep the National Assembly as it did, and said that he hoped Maduro realized that the decree will do nothing to solve the country’s economic problems.
[Venezuela] faces an auto-coup because the government and its court have ignored the decisions of the other power: the national legislature (…) the TSJ is one of the things that is keeping Maduro precariously in power. They’re trying to stop the National Assembly because it’s doing its job.
If this isn’t a coup against the National Assembly by the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, then we’re going to find a more precise word [to describe this]. However, we’re clearly looking at a clear violation of the Constitution by the judicial branch.
Guerra also said that it was “absurd” that the government would try to push for the decree at this stage, given the fact that it will only be in effect for another month and it is unlikely that any of the measures outlined in the decree will be able to be implemented in just four weeks.
Maduro: “I’m Waiting For You on the Battlefield”
You fight fights by fighting, sir. I’m waiting for you on the battlefield of ideas and truths, Ramos Allup. Come here! We’ve got enough morale and enough people to fight the battle against this gang of terrorists, murderers and traitors!
Maduro also attempted to rally the PSUV base by saying that he claimed responsibility for the mistakes of the past, saying:
They say that it’s Maduro’s fault. Let me tell you something: in order to take responsibility ourselves, and in order to take the blame — I’ll say it more directly if you want. I’m here to take responsibility for the things that were done poorly and for the mistakes, dammit! I’m here before you and I’m showing my face to the people wherever they are!
Maduro: Economic Emergency Will Last Into 2017
Although the economic emergency decree is set to expire on March 16, Maduro has the power to extend it for a period of thirty days. He suggested today that he planned to extend the decree well into 2017, saying:
This emergency will last all of 2016 and part of 2017 because we have to recover all of this country and make a productive system, a system of distribution and commercialization and setting prices for all products.
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