The National Assembly held a session today in which it approved two resolutions: one condemning the rupture in the constitutional order in the country, and the other approving the removal of Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) magistrates involved in a pair of decisions last week that essentially destroyed the National Assembly.

During the day’s debate, a consensus was reached that the Maduro regime began the work of undermining the country’s legislative branch on December 6, 2015, one day after a parliamentary elections gave the opposition a historic victory over the PSUV.

During the session, National Assembly president Julio Borges argued that the Maduro regime’s coup against democracy in Venezuela is ongoing, and that “it worsens each day”. Borges said:

The coup d’etat is against the entirety of the Venezuelan people. That’s why the struggle to recover our rights and our Constitution belongs to the people. This is the resistance that we’re building from here. The world should know this, and help us.

Borges also said that Venezuela no longer has a National Assembly. He argued that instead the country has a group of people who have come together to lead the resistance against a dictatorial regime. Borges said:

This is neither a normal nor a democratic parliament.

During the same session, deputy Juan Pablo Garcia from the Vente Venezuela party criticized the TSJ’s move to rescind the rulings that stripped deputies of immunity and the Assembly of all of its power in Saturday. For Garcia, the move was merely a ruse:

They [the TSJ] thought that with some corrections they could pretend before the world that there is a democracy here, but that didn’t happen. The only thing they showed was that there is no separation of powers, and that the executive [branch] calls all of the shots.

Removal of Magistrates Easier Said Than Done

The National Assembly’s goal of removing magistrates from the TSJ will not be an easy one. While article 265 of the Constitution grants the legislature the power to remove magistrates from the top court via a 2/3 vote, the vote can only happen if the Poder Ciudadano [Citizen Power] finds that there is a reason to hold the vote in the first place.

The Citizen Power is made up by the Peoples’ Defender, Attorney General and the Comptroller General of the Republic, all of whom are unlikely to be in favour of such a move.

Constitutional lawyer Jose Vicente Haro told El Nacional that while in his expert opinion the case to remove magistrates from the TSJ’s Constitutional Chamber is clear to see, the process could take months if it is to happen at all. Plus, Haro pointed out that parliament would need 112 votes to remove the magistrates, but that it only has 109 sitting deputies because the TSJ forced the removal of three of them last year.

Maduro: National Assembly is a “Fraud”

Maduro reacted to today’s National Assembly session by calling the branch of government “a fraud”, and urged his supporters to not “lose any time with those people”. On the goals of the National Assembly, Maduro said:

We are facing a crazy attack from the oligarchy and imperialism. I’m sure that God will punish them with the greatest punishment, which is indifference. They spend every day sabotaging, conspiring, harming.

COPEI Leader Takes Refuge in Chilean Ambassador’s Home

The head of the COPEI party, Roberto Enriquez, has evaded authorities and is now taking refuge inside the home of the Chilean ambassador to Venezuela in Caracas. Enriquez was arrested two days ago and was scheduled to appear before a military tribunal in the coming days on charges of treason and inciting rebellion.

The fact was confirmed by an official statement from the Chilean embassy, which confirmed that it had granted Enriquez permission to stay in the home. The statement reads:

This afternoon, a Venezuelan citizen named Roberto Enriquez — the president of the Partido Social Cristiano (COPEI) and vice-president of the Organizacion Democrata Cristiana de America (ODCA), entered the home of the Chilean ambassador in Caracas and he has been granted the status of guest.

Mr. Enriquez has asked for Chile’s protection given various political circumstances. Our country will act on this issue in accordance to the legal and humanitarian principles that guide our foreign policy.

Varela: Venezuelan Prisons Best on Earth

Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela appeared on the Vladimir a la 1 television show today and spoke on a variety of topics, from the state of the country’s prison system to recent comments by Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz on recent decisions from the Supreme Court.

As in previous occassions, Varela asserted that the Venezuelan prison system is the best on earth. She exalted the prisoners’ diets, saying:

Everyone gets three meals [a day] and even snacks because we produce [our own food]. In every prison where there isn’t space to cultivate and raise animals, we grow food that, when it’s commercialized, serve for the auto-running of the penitentiary [sic]/ In the Andes [region] we grow potatoes and carrots, and right now we’re planting aloe vera and pineapples.

Varela also said that 90% of prisons are weapon-free, and that smuggling efforts by the inmates are “detected immediately” by the authorities.

Varela’s praise for the Venezuelan prison system is counter-factual. Conditions in Venezuelan prisons can only be described as hellish. Food and medicine are scarce, and violence is common.

Just last month, authorities discovered the partial remains of at least fourteen individuals inside the Penitenciaria General de Venezuela (PGV).

YouTube is replete with videos showing the deplorable state of the country’s prisons. The video below shows a group of heavily-armed prisoners inside the PGV prison discussing administrative matters:

The video below (part of a series of videos recorded by the PGV pran) shows emaciated inmates at the PGV prison last fall pleading with Varela to send them aid:

Varela also contrasted the country’s political opposition with the Maduro regime, saying that the former lacked “clear leadership”:

No one discusses or doubts President Nicolas Maduro’s leadership of the Bolivarian Revolution. The opposition doesn’t have a clear leadership.

Speaking on Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz’s public criticism of two Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ) decisions last week, Varela simply asserted  that Diaz “cannot question” the TSJ’s decisions.

Questions/Comments? E-mail me: invenezuelablog@gmail.com

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