The National Assembly held a special session today in which it named 33 magistrates to the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), the nation’s top court. With the appointments, the split within the Venezuelan state deepens, as the country now has two sets of supreme court magistrates: one appointed by the PSUV-controlled National Assembly in 2015, and the other appointed by the MUD-controlled National Assembly today.
Today’s appointment of the 33 magistrates comes as a direct response to the actions of the outgoing PSUV Assembly on December 23, 2015. On that day, the National Assembly approved the appointment of 33 new magistrates to the top court after virtually no vetting, and usurping the functions of the incoming National Assembly.
Having lost the December 5 parliamentary elections that same month, the PSUV controlled-legislature realized that it would fall on the incoming MUD-controlled Assembly, which was to be sworn in in January 2016, to appoint the 33 new magistrates, potentially tilting the slant of the TSJ away from the top court. Rather than letting the opposition appoint the magistrates, the PSUV conducted the appointments on the last day of its parliamentary term: December 23, 2015.
Yvett Lugo, the head of the Colegio de Abogados del Distrito Capital [Capital District College of Lawyers], was present at today’s National Assembly session to witness the appointment of the 13 magistrates and 20 back-ups. On the legality of the session, Lugo said:
[Today’s appointments] meet all of the [legal] requirements, and it would look bad on the TSJ that would ignore the legislative branch.
Alejandro Rebolledo, who was appointed to the Main Chamber of the TSJ, spoke on the optics of today’s event. In particular, Rebolledo took aim at the critique that since the appointments today were made by the MUD-controlled National Assembly, then all of the magistrates must be partisan. Rebolledo said:
We are magistrates neither of the government nor of the opposition. We are TSJ magistrates.
The swearing-in ceremony took place during a special parliamentary session that was held outdoors. A clip of the session can be seen below:
Magistrate Elenis Rodriguez, who was appointed to the TSJ’s Constitutional Chamber today, spoke to reporters after the swearing-in ceremony regarding the possibility that she may be jailed by the Maduro regime. Rodriguez said:
I’m not committing any crime. I am not afraid [to go to prison]. What I am afraid us is that this dictatorship will finally set itself up after 18 years. I am afraid of turning my back on millions of people.
For a full list of the magistrates and the Chambers to which they were appointed, click here.
TSJ: State, Institutions Must Move to Defend Us
The Constitutional Chamber of the TSJ issued a statement today rejecting the appointment of the 33 magistrates by the National Assembly, which technically replace the 33 magistrates appointed in December 23, 2015.
Juan Jose Mendoza, president of the Constitutional Chamber, said:
This Chamber declares that it is up to civilian and military authorities to carry out coercive actions with the goal of maintaining peace and stability (…) [Today’s appointment] is a flagrant and permanent crime. These citizens have not only committed the crime of usurping duties, but also treason against the fatherland.
It is not clear what Mendoza meant by “coercive actions”, or what the TSJ expects the military to do in reaction to the National Assembly’s actions today.
The fact that the sitting TSJ will not recognize today’s appointments from the National Assembly means that Venezuela currently has two parallel and competing supreme courts.
Maracaibo Reports 4 Dead in Yesterday During Strike; Total Reaches 100
The city of Maracaibo in Zulia state reported four deaths related to yesterday’s national strike, pushing the total death toll from the protests since April 1 to 100.
According to El Panorama, the following protest-related fatalities occurred in Maracaibo yesterday:
- Unidentified Youth: A “youth” became trapped inside a government building that was apparently set ablaze by protesters. The building belongs to INAVI, a government institution that administers subsidized housing in the country.
- Unknown Man #1: The man was shot and killed while he attempted to steal another man’s motorcycle near the Puente Pomona interchange.
- Unknown Man #2: Electrocuted while breaking into the Super Latino supermarket in Altos de Jalisco.
- Unknown Woman #1: Electrocuted while breaking into the Super Latino supermarket in Altos de Jalisco.
The addition of these four deaths to the two reported yesterday push the total number of protest-related fatalities since April 1 to a grim milestone: 100.
NGOL: 367 Arrested During Protests Yesterday
Alfredo Romero, the director of the Foro Penal Venezolano (FPV), announced today that the NGO counted 367 arrests yesterday during the anti-regime national strike that took place throughout the country.
According to Romero, the figure means that yesterday saw the second-highest arrests in a single day since April 1, with April 19 taking first place. On that day, millions of Venezuelans participated in what was arguably the largest anti-government protest in the country’s history.
Romero also said that the number of arrests made during protests since April 1 has now passed the 4,400 mark, and that in all of 2014–the last time that Venezuela saw widespread unrest–only 3,700 people were arrested during protests.
Romero also lamented the Maduro regime’s ongoing systemic violations of due process and law, including the processing of civilians through military tribunals and warrantless arrests.
Only 203,000 Voted in Practice Constituent Assembly Run
National Assembly deputy Henry Ramos Allup alleged today that only 203,000 people participated in a highly-publicized practice run of the Constituent Assembly election which was held on July 16. The practice run took place on the same day that the opposition conducted a plebiscite on the future of the country in which 7.5 million Venezuelans voted.
Allup claims to have received internal information from the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) detailing the number of people who participated in the practice run. The total: 203,032.
Below, Allup’s tweet containing the alleged leak:
A helpful patriot has given us a CNE form that contains the numbers for the practice run. 203,000 [had been forced to vote] by 4:00 PM in all of Venezuela.
If the figures are accurate, they would signal an embarrassing defeat for Maduro’s push to hold the Constituent Assembly, the vote for which will take place on July 30.
The anemic numbers are consistent with several public opinion polls which show that a majority of Venezuelans do not want the Constituent Assembly to take place.
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