Early this morning, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) announced that it was backpedaling on two controversial decisions it made this week regarding the National Assembly: one stripping legislators from parliamentary immunity, and the other taking control of the Assembly’s legislative powers.The reversal throws the country further into chaos, as a seemingly rudderless TSJ appears to be making and rescinding important decisions on whim.
The TSJ’s announcement came just a few hours after the National Defense Council concluded with a call for the top court to “publish the clarification and respective corrections” to the two rulings. The National Defense Council was convened on Friday night by Maduro himself, who said that it was necessary in order to overcome the “impasse” that had formed between the Supreme Court and the Public Ministry over the two decisions.
The two decisions resulted in an outpouring of condemnation from Venezuelans and the international community alike. Even long-time party pillar Luisa Ortega Diaz, Venezuela’s Attorney General, called the TSJ’s decisions “a break in the constitutional order” of the country.
Through its official website, the TSJ “clarified” that its ruling stripping National Assembly deputies of parliamentary immunity was now “suppressed” (meaning “without effect”), and that part of the second ruling – the section in which the Supreme Court took over the National Assembly’s powers – was likewise without effect.
Maikel Moreno, the chief magistrate at the TSJ, later read a statement on the developments from the court in which he said that the court would “never do anything to affect the stability of our country”, and that:
This Tribunal Supremo de Justicia and every other tribunal in our republic will always take whatever decision it needs to take to the benefit of the peace, tranquility and democracy in our country.
Moreno: Rulings Didn’t Strip Parliament of Powers
Despite rescinding the rulings given their universal recognition as direct attacks against the legislative branch in the country, Moreno argued today that the decisions did not actually constitute attacks on the National Assembly. Speaking before reporters at a press conference, Moreno attempted to justify the defunct rulings by saying:
The decisions from the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia have not taken parliament’s powers, nor have they dissolved or annulled it, and they recognize parliamentary immunity as a guarantee of legislative functions within the limitations established in the constitution.
At the same time, Moreno appeared to suggest that decisions from the top court were by definition unable to do harm to democracy and the rule of law in Venezuela:
The decisions were made to safeguard the constitutional order, which implies the adoption of measures destined to guarantee the efficient function of the democratic institutions of the Venezuelan state and the protection of its sovereign people, which is something that cannot be affected or altered in any case.
Moreno also stressed that despite the judiciary’s neutral role in the Venezuelan state, he believes that the TSJ does have a responsibility to “not remain passive” in the face of “attacks… from national or international actors”. Moreno did not clarify his comments.
Borges: Maduro Fixed Nothing: Coup D’Etat Still Underway
National Assembly president Julio Borges spoke before a crowd of demonstrators in Caracas and downplayed the TSJ’s backpedaling on its rulings from this week, saying that nothing had been fixed and the Maduro was still a dictator. Borges said:
They’ve done nothing. All the Court has done is put make up on the corpse. It’s already conducted a coup d’etat that it cannot take back by fixing a word in its rulings.
Borges made the comments before the Plaza Brion, where the National Assembly held a special session today among citizens who turned up to protest against the Maduro regime and the TSJ.
On the outpouring of support from the international community over the last 72 hours, Borges said:
We have never had so much support from the international community, and we want to give a round of applause to the countries that have supported us during these hours. Thank you for accompanying liberty in Venezuela.
Borges told the crowd that in previous years, attempt to reach out to other countries through diplomatic channels were less-than-successful because the Venezuelan crisis was so alien to them that it was difficult to understand. Now, Borges says, there is widespread understanding from the international community about both the nature and quality of the Venezuelan crisis. Borges explained:
Today, the calls that we get [from foreign diplomats] aren’t to ask about what’s happening in Venezuela. For the first time, they’re calling us to express their condemnation of the coup d’etat. There is a sense of clarity around the world on the fact that Venezuela is a dictatorship.
Borges called on all Venezuelans to continue to exercise their right to peaceful protest as a way to maintain pressure on the Maduro regime through international scrutiny. Borges explained:
The goal is to get the world to listen to us instead of the corrupt [people] in power. Nothing has changed [in Venezuela] (…) there is no separation of powers, nor democracy, nor justice in Venezuela.
Almagro Not Impressed by TSJ’s Backpedalling
The secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, reacted to today’s news on the rescinding of the TSJ rulings against the National Assembly by arguing that nothing had changed, and that the country was still experiencing a break in its constitutional order.
Almagro appears to have taken issue with the fact that the TSJ reversed its rulings as a direct result of what amounted to a personal, public order from Maduro, which is clearly a sign that there is no such thing as separation of powers in Venezuela. Through his Twitter account, Almagro said:
… you can’t fix a break in the constitutional order with more breaks in the constitutional order.
The OAS’ permanent council is scheduled to hold an emergency meeting on the Venezuelan crisis on Monday.
Protests, Clashes in Caracas
Opposition protesters and National Assembly deputies clashes with security forces in Caracas today during the largest round of protests since last year.
Deputy Jose Guerra was temporarily knocked off his feet by tear gas. Below, an image showing Guerra receiving treatment at a demonstration:
Our deputy #JoseAGuerra has been affected by tear gas. The regime of @NicolasMaduro is cowardly for repressing us!
The video below shows a group of demonstrators, including deputy Miguel Pizarro, clash with a group of National Bolivarian Police officers:
Look at how officers from the National Bolivarian Police repress citizens who were peacefully protesting. Among the injured, @Miguel_Pizarro #PeopleAndConstitution
The video below shows demonstrators sitting on top mobile walls and trucks belonging to the National Guard. The vehicles were deployed to block the protesters from reaching the Public Defender’s office. The crowd is chanting, “El pueblo arrecho demanda sus derechos!” [The pissed off people demand their rights!”]:
We demand respect for the right to protest. Let’s go to the Public Defender’s office. #PeopleAndConstitution
The image below shows a common tactic employed by the Maduro regime during protests: placing female officers on the front lines, often without any kind of protective gear. The tactic is meant to discourage protesters from attempting to break through the lines out of fear of harming the officers:
#Now on the Francisco Solano Avenue there is a line of the National Bolivarian Police made up only of women, the other line is made up of National Guard [soldiers].
Below, a video showing protesters moving near the El Recreo mall. The protesters are chanting “Libertad! Libertad!” [Freedom! Freedom!]:
Opposition [supporters] take refuge in the El Recreo mall. Authorities launch tear gas.
Below, a video showing the opposition march on the Francisco Fajardo avenue earlier today:
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