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Yesterday, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the nation’s top court, published a ruling striking down a law passed by the National Assembly in August seeking to regulate gold mining activities in the country. The same ruling issued a blanket nullification of all future National Assembly legislative work so long as the three deputies from Amazonas state whom the Court has an open case remain in their seats in the parliament.

Despite a TSJ ban against the action, the National Assembly swore in deputies Julio Ygarza, Nirma Guarulla and Romel Guzamana in a ceremony on July 28. The deputies had been suspended at the end of December following their electoral wins by the TSJ while it investigated allegations of electoral fraud.

The blanket nullification reads:

3. We DECLARE – the unconstitutionality, and as such absolutely null and lacking in all effect and judicial standing, all of the actions coming from the National Assembly, including approved laws, so long as it maintains itself in contempt of the Electoral Hall of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

By “contempt of the Electoral Hall” the ruling refers to an earlier decision by the TSJ which ordered the National Assembly to not incorporate the three deputies from Amanznas state into the national legislature. As such, so long as the deputies remain in their seats, everything the National Assembly does is null.

Allup: National Assembly Will Ignore TSJ

The president of the National Assembly, Henry Ramos Allup, reacted to the TSJ’s blanket nullification of the legislature by saying that the Assembly would simply ignore the TSJ’s ruling.

Allup was blunt with his comments, saying:

We will not obey any decision by the TSJ nor any of any [government] body that violates the constitution.

Man Arrested for Flying Drone on September 1

A journalist named Alejandro Puglia was arrested yesterday afternoon for operating a drone to take pictures and footage of the opposition demonstration in Caracas on September 1.

While flying drones is not illegal in Venezuela, the national government issued a blanket ban on all drone and private aircraft flights from August 30 to September 5. While the ban did not come with any kind of explanation, the reason appears to have been to stop people from taking areal photographs of what turned out to be the largest demonstration in the country’s history.

Puglia’s lawyer, Nohelia Alvarez, called her client’s detention an “aberration”, since flying a drone is not illegal in the country. Alvarez also pointed out that even though the Attorney General’s office ordered Puglia’s release, the judge handling the case refuses to release him.

Luis Almagro, the secretary general of the Organization of American States, spoke out against Puglia’s detention today,

Cabello: Opposition Will Never Again Come to Power

National Assembly deputy and PSUV vice-president Diosdado Cabello gave a fiery speech in Portuguesa state in which he suggests that the government thwarted a coup attempt on September 1, a line that has become popular among government spokespersons.

While the opposition clearly and unequivocally called for peaceful protests in the weeks leading up to September 1, Cabello said:

They [the opposition] say that they had to change the model, because the socialist model doesn’t satisfy them. They said that they would go to the Toma de Caracas [the name of the September 1 protest] to set Caracas on fire (…) today is September 6, and we still have the same president, Nicolas Maduro Moros (…)  We gave them [the opposition] a lesson in dignity. We gave them a lesson in popular unity.

Speaking on the opposition demonstration planned for tomorrow, Cabello said:

We should be very vigilant because they’ve called for [a demonstration] tomorrow (…) Maduro’s not going anywhere and you [the opposition] are never coming back, dammit!

Inflation Jumps 331.9% In Eight Months

El Nacional – citing a source “close to the Banco Central de Venezuela” (BCV) – reported today that the inflation rate so far this year has jumped 331.9%, registering an increase of 26.9% in the month of August alone. The figures put Venezuela’s inflation rate at historic highs, and the highest overall in the world.

The annualized inflation rate  – from August 2015 to August 2016 – now sits at 675.1%.

Aside from exacerbating the scarcity crisis since already scarce products are becoming more and more affordable to the average Venezuelan, the runaway inflation has also affected the economy in general. The same source told El Nacional that the BCV estimates that the country’s economy shrank 11.8% in the second trimester of the year when compared to the same period last year, while GDP contracted 11.5% in the first three months of the year when compared to the period last year.

The BCV is no longer required by law to publish economic information, making the work of reporting on the country’s economic situation very difficult.

CNE: Announcement Coming Sept. 14-16

Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) rector Socorro Hernandez said today that the electoral body would make an announcement regarding the second step of the recall referendum process against Maduro between September 14 and 16. The announcement is widely expected to be an actual, clearly defined schedule for the recall referendum.

At the same time, Hernandez appears to have jumped the official announcement by saying that the collection of signatures will take place between October 24 and October 30.

Jaua: Elections Will Make Things Worse

National Assembly deputy (PSUV) Elias Jaua appeared on Globovision‘s popular interview show Vladimir a la 1 today. Jaua spoke on a variety of issues, including elections in Venezuela. Aside from the much-anticipated recall referendum against Maduro, there are also supposed to be gubernatorial elections before the end of the year.

Jaua explained that he does not believe that now is a good time to hold any kind of elections, given the ongoing conflict between the government and the opposition. Jaua said:

If we hold elections, no one will recognize the other’s victory. This would make the conflict worse.

Maduro and the PSUV are currently living through their must unpopular moments. Maduro enjoys an approval rating of only 20%, and nearly 7 in 10 Venezuelans would vote to have him removed from power if the recall referendum were held. In the parliamentary elections of last December, the opposition won control of the National Assembly in a landslide victory that saw the legislature go to the opposition for the first time in 17 years.

Jaua continued:

Any electoral process, no matter who wins, will not open the doors to a period of stability and peace. For that reason, the most important thing is a dialogue that will guarantee the peace of all of the Venezuelan people.

Term limits dictate that gubernatorial elections must take place before the end of the year, and the constitution explicitly lays out the mechanisms under which a recall referendum against the President of the Republic can be initiated. The constitution does not set any conditions on when the “right time” for holding elections is.


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