National Assembly president Henry Ramos Allup announced today that the legislature would move to overturn the appointment of 13 magistrates to the nation’s top court, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), that were made last December.
The rush appointment was made during the last session of the PSUV-controlled National Assembly, and was widely seen at the time as a way for the PSUV to stack the top court with supporters in order to hinder the work of the incoming opposition-controlled legislature. Moreover, the appointments came after several magistrates resigned their seats under mysterious circumstances, with some claiming that they were pressured to vacate their seats by the PSUV.
Allup called the appointment of the magistrates “unconstitutional”, and explained:
Next week we are going to go ahead and revoke by contrario imperio the unconstitutional and fraudulent assignment of the 13 magistrates and 21 back-up magistrates…
Contrario imperio is a Latin term that roughly means “what power was exercised before”. In essence, Allup is arguing that the same power that allows the National Assembly to appoint magistrates to the TSJ allows it to either revoke or otherwise modify the same appointments.
Allup: We Won’t Allow Maduro to “Throw Cold Water” on Recall
Allup reiterated yesterday that while the opposition is open to dialogue with the government, it would not do so under conditions imposed by Maduro because he considers these conditions an attempt to “throw a bucked of cold water” on the recall referendum.
Speaking from the National Assembly, Allup said:
We don’t shy away from the dialogue, but [we won’t talk[ with the conditions that Nicolas [Maduro] has set so that he can throw a bucket of cold water on the recall referendum. They will not put the referendum on ice. Because we’ve met all of the requirements, the recall must take place this year…
Saab Opposes NA Dissolution
People’s Defender Tareck William Saab spoke out against news yesterday that the head of the PODEMOS party – an ally of the PSUV – had asked the TSJ to dissolve the National Assembly.
Isolated voices that are calling for the abolition of public powers will not have any kind of national support. These are individuals that are speaking on their own, because what Venezuela wants today is cooperation between public powers.
The fact that the National Assembly was elected democratically less than one year ago is also important to consider, Saab said:
We have a National Assembly that was elected in December, and it must assume its responsibilities in the face of that is happening in the country.
Const. Lawyers Argue TSJ Cannot Dissolve NA
A number of constitutional lawyers agree that the TSJ simply does not have the power to dissolve the National Assembly, an El Nacional article explains.
Juan Manuel Raffali was blunt with his assessment of the supposed proposal:
Eso no tiene ni pies, ni cabeza [literally, “it has neither feet nor a head”; in other words, “it makes no sense at all”]. The TSJ does not have the power to dissolve a public power.
Raffali said that the TSJ does have the power to take action against individual National Deputies, but only if the are first subjected to a rigorous process that involves the removal of parliamentary immunity. Raffli explained:
In this case, the TSJ cannot say, “I’m removing so-and-so”. Before that happens, they have to go through a process: first, an internal debate inside the NA, and then an impeachment to finally remove immunity.
Jose Vicente Haro agreed, saying:
The [TSJ] does not have the power to dissolve the National Assembly, and neither does the Constitutional Chamber [the most powerful section of the TSJ]. If it were the case that an individual deputy committed a crime, whoever believes themselves to be a victim must first denounce [the crime] with teh Public Ministry.
El Nacional points out that the only person able to dissolve the National Assembly by decree is the President of the Republic, but only if a very specific set of circumstances is met. These circumstances are outlined in article 240 of the constitution, part of which reads:
Article 240. … The third removal of an Executive Vice President during the same presidential term as a consequence of motions of censure [by the National Assembly] authorizes the President of the Republic to dissolve the National Assembly. The dissolution decree includes the calling of elections to form a new legislature within sixty days of the dissolution of the old.
Obama Calls for “Respect” of Recall Process
Speaking at a press conference in Ottawa, U.S. President Barack Obama called on the two sides in Venezuela to engage in meaningful dialogue, and on the Venezuelan government to respect the National Assembly’s democratic right to legislate. Obama said:
Given the very serious situation in Venezuela and the worsening plight of the Venezuelan people, together we’re calling on the government and opposition to engage in meaningful dialogue and urge the Venezuelan government to respect the rule of law and the authority of the national assembly.
Speaking specifically on the recall referendum, Obama said:
Political prisoners should be released, the democratic process should be respected and that includes legitimate efforts to pursue a recall referendum consistent with Venezuelan law.
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