The National Assembly approved a motion today to put Maduro on a “political responsibility trial” at the legislature, in essence forcing him to appear before the congress and answer questions regarding what the Assembly considers to “break in the constitutional order” of the country. To this effect, the National Assembly has summoned Maduro a parliamentary session on November 1.
According to Article 222 of the Constitution, the National Assembly has the ability to question and investigate public officials over the conduct of their duties. If in the course of this investigation the Assembly finds “irregularities” with the way in which the public official has conducted his or her duties, they may declare “political responsibility”.
According to constitutional lawyer Jose Vicente Haro, a declaration of political responsibility can have several consequences:
A political responsibility trial could find that the constitutional order has been broken [by the president] by approving the economic emergency decrees or the national budget without approval from the legislature.
Haro explained that were the National Assembly to declare political responsibility against Maduro, he could be removed from office after a process involving both the Citizen Power [a relatively little-understood branch of government] and the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the country’s top court.
According to Haro, the road to removing Maduro via a declaration of political responsibility is three-fold:
- A parliamentary commission will investigate any irregularities Maduro is suspected of having committed during the conduct of his duties (i.e., approving the 2017 national budget without parliamentary approval), and present a report on its findings.
- This report is sent to the Citizen Power for consideration.
- If the Civil Power determines that an irregularity has indeed taken place, it may ask the TSJ to rule on whether or not Maduro should be removed from office.
The process is unlikely to be successful given the TSJ’s near-perfect record of ruling in favour for the government. The Citizen Power is made up of institutions like the People’s Defender and the General Prosecutor, offices that are also understood to be pro-PSUV.
It is highly unlikely that Maduro will abide by the summons for his appearance on November 1.
Maduro Calls “National Defense Council” For Tomorrow
In response to today’s announcement from the National Assembly, Maduro called for a “National Defense Council” for tomorrow at 11:00 AM. In attendance will be representatives from all branches of government.
Maduro said that the purpose of the council would be to set a strategy for moving forward in light of what he calls the “parliamentary coup” against him, and said that he expects National Assembly president Henry Ramos Allup to attend. Maduro said:
The President of the National Assembly cannot miss this. He should show his face. He will be treated with respect.
Maduro has taken to calling Allup a “motherfucker” in public recently, once during a televised speech before a large crowd of supporters and once during a more recent public event.
When inviting Allup to attend tomorrow’s council, Maduro said:
I’m going to be here at 11:00 AM waiting for Ramos Allup, and I’m going to stretch out my hand and say, “Let’s talk, let’s dialogue: all of the state institutions are here, and we owe it to the people”. Enough with the transgressions, enough with the lies, enough with all of these adventures and all of these threats. Enough! I’m going to give Ramos Allup one last chance to enter through the constitutional means.
Army Denies Break in Constitutional Order
Minister of Defense and head of the armed forces Vladimir Padrino Lopez gave a conference today in which he pledged the support of the army to Maduro, and said that he did not believe that there had been a break in the country’s constitutional order as the National Assembly has claimed.
Lopez qualified the National Assembly’s recent declarations in the following way:
Their real purpose is none other than to gravely affect the institutions of the country through chaos and anarchy in order to finally overthrow this legitimately-established government.
On his and the armed forces’ support for Maduro, Padrino Lopez said:
[Maduro] is the constitutional president and the commander-in-chief of the National Bolivarian Armed Forces. [Maduro] has supreme authority in this hierarchy… [Maduro] is the one to whom we reiterate our unconditional loyalty and unbreakable promise to loyally comply with and force the compliance of the supreme law of the Republic.
Henry Ramos Allup reacted to Padrino Lopez’s comments in a fiery speech from the National Assembly today, calling him an “enabler” of Maduro’s continued assaults against democracy in the country. Allup said:
I hope that this minister [Padrino Lopez] – who brings shame to the armed forces – would leave the barracks and accept a challenge to a televised debate, to see if he still talks as tough as he does when he’s armed.
Allup has long been a critic of Padrino Lopez’s incursions into the country’s politics, which given his positions as an enlisted member of the army and head of the military poses troubling questions for the supposed impartiality of the military.
For his part, Henrique Capriles said that the army was rapidly approaching a crossroads:
We don’t want a coup d’etat. We want the constitution to be obeyed. The National Bolivarian Armed Forces are drawing closer to having to make a choice: The constitution or the PSUV.
Confusion Over Dialogue Announcement; Torrealba on the Defensive
After yesterday’s bombshell announcement that the Vatican had brokered a dialogue deal between the PSUV and the Mesa de la Unidad Democratica (MUD) today, the opposition has been thrown into disarray over allegations that few – if any – of its leaders had any advanced knowledge of the deal, or that a deal at all has been reached.
Today, National Assembly president and head of the Accion Democratica (AD) party Henry Ramos Allup threw himself into the fray by saying:
AD said that if the [other opposition] parties went to a dialogue promoted by the Vatican, we would also go. Since we all found out about it on TV, we’re not going.
Allup also made it clear that the opposition would not let up its pressure on the government even if a dialogue were to take place, saying:
We’re not going to mutilate the agenda we announced on Friday and Sunday for an eventual dialogue (…) We deputies will fulfill our duty, rain or shine.
Allup said that if the day for the dialogue every arrived, the MUD must “demand rather than give” concessions.
Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles criticized the fact that the dialogue will apparently take place in Margarita Island, saying:
They’re proposing [that the meeting take place in] Margarita so that journalists can’t get there. The government has designated Margarita as its meeting place.
Capriles said that he believed that if any dialogue were to take place, it should take place in Caracas and it should include members of the press.
At the same time, the president of the Venezuelan Episcopal Conference, Monseigneur Diego Padron, said that despite what the Vatican envoy said yesterday, the dialogue between the PSUV and the MUD has not yet begun.
The head of the MUD, Jesus Torrealba, defended his seemingly unilateral decision to agree to enter into a dialogue with the PSUV this morning by saying:
I was [at the meeting with the Vatican envoy] commissioned and designated by all of the parties of the MUD to attend that meeting (…) the situation is very delicate. A mistake at this point won’t cost positions, but lives.
Capriles: March Tomorrow Can’t Last “Only Hours”
Speaking on tomorrow’s planned protests for Caracas and other major cities around the country, Henrique Capriles urged Venezuelans that if they truly want lasting change, they must be ready to commit to protest actions. Capriles said:
If we want the constitutional order to be restored, we have to understand that this [protest] cannot be a matter of hours: it could take days.
Tomorrow’s protest is billed as the Toma de Venezuela [the Takeover of Venezuela], and will set out from the following points in Caracas onto the Francisco Fajardo highway: La Florida, Santa Monica, Caurimare, Unicentro El Marques, Santa Fe, Parque del Este and the O’Higgin Avenue.
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