Earlier today, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) issued a ruling declaring the Ley del Banco Central de Venezuela [Venezuelan Central Bank Law] unconstitutional. While the TSJ has yet to update its webpage with the ruling, the decision was confirmed by the National Assembly’s communication department.
The law, which was passed on March 3, required the Central Bank to regularly publish economic data, including inflation and scarcity figures. The law also gave the National Assembly oversight over the Central Bank’s activities in an attempt to ensure transparency and increase accountability at the institution.
It is not clear at this time what the grounds for the TSJ’s ruling are, but the decision was not unexpected. National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup warned earlier this month that the TSJ would block the law, and that he expects the Amnesty Law passed yesterday to suffer the same fate.
UNASUR Calls for Dialogue Before “Train Wreck”
Ernesto Samper, the Secretary General of the Union de Nacionas Suramericanas (UNASUR), called for dialogue today between the PSUV and opposition in Venezuela before the “imminent train wreck”.
Samper was referring to the looming showdown over the Amnesty and National Reconciliation Law, which was passed by the National Assembly yesterday. The Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) ran its campaign on the promise to pass the law as soon as possible. While the MUD claims that the law will see some 76 political prisoners in the country released, the PSUV claims that it offers amnesty to drug traffickers, murderers and terrorists.
Yesterday, Maduro said that the law “would never be approved”. Although the President of Venezuela does not have the power to veto bills that make it onto his desk, Maduro pointed out that the TSJ would take on the task of declaring the law unconstitutional and therefore null.
Lawyer: TSJ Could Only Nullify Law “On Political Grounds”
Constitutional lawyer Bernardo Pulido told El Nacional in an article published today that the way the Amnesty and National Reconciliation Law was drafted and approved makes it difficult to challenge on constitutional grounds, given its adherence to the document. For Pulido, were the TSJ to take on the case and rule to strike it down, its reasons for doing so would be obvious:
If the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia decides to declare [the law] unconstitutional, it would be only for political reasons.
Pulido, who served on Leopoldo Lopez’s legal defense team, also pointed out that the amnesty law would not absolve anyone convicted of murder of responsibility. He pointed to his own client as evidence:
The crimes with which Leopoldo was charged have nothing to do with murder. The [PSUV] cannot continue to irresponsibly say that Lopez is guilty of the deaths that occurred on February 12 , when not even the prosecutor’s office has found any connection or charged him with murder.
On Thursday, the National Assembly passed a law to partially reform the TSJ. The law seeks to expand the number of magistrates on the nation’s top court from the current 32 with the hopes of placing impartial adjudicators in the institution.
Deputy: $60 Billion Stolen Through PDVSA
Julio Montoya, the President of the Parlamento Lationoamericano y del Caribe [Caribbean and Latin American Parliament] (PARLATINO) announced yesterday that an investigation conducted by the body found that at least 116 former and current PDVSA officials were involved in the embezzlement of at least $60 billion through the state-owned oil company.
Montoya explained that the money was stolen through elaborate schemes involving construction contracts for thermoelectric plants in Venezuela.
Montoya also said that the allegations warrant further investigation, which the institution is willing to take on. He also said that “international agencies” have detected suspicious bank accounts belonging to Venezuelan nationals – presumably linked to PDVSA – in Hong Kong, Madagascar, Gibraltar, the Virgin Island, Panama, Andorra and Switzerland.
Guri Dam Could Be 36 Hours Away from Catastrophic Low
El Nacional published an article today in which it has calculated that if the recent trend in the drop of the Guri dam’s water level continue, the hydroelectric plant could be 36 hours away from the critical 244 meter level. Once the water level reaches 244 meters, the plant’s turbines would still be able to operate, but would suffer damage from doing so.
The dam – the nation’s largest single provide of electrical energy – saw its water level drop by 1.2 meters from March 14 to March 21.
Jose Aguilar, an international electrical energy consultant, were the water level to stabilize at 244 meters, the Guri dam would only be able to produce electricity for approximately 20 more days before having to shut down. At 241 meters, the dam could only remain in operation for five more days.
El Nacional reports that two of the dam’s ten turbines have already had to shut down due to the decreasing water levels. Were the water level to reach 240 meters, six additional turbines would have to shut down, while the other two could operate until the water level reaches 230 meters.
However, according to Aguilar, having a total of six out-of-service engines would seriously compromise electrical service to as many as ten states in the country’s interior.
According to El Nacional, 18 states reported blackouts throughout the day yesterday.
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