That Chavez and his cohorts will try to use any dirty trick, tackle and twist to avoid a recall referendum has been known for quite a while. The appearance of legality began being used against democracy in Venezuela in January 23d. when the Venezuelan Supreme Court barred a consultative referendum from taking place by ruling not on the merits of the referendum itself but on the Electoral Board (CNE) that would organize it. The political nature of that decision was demonstrated by the fact that the Vice-President announced it even before the Court itself had held the audience with its decision. That remarkable decision told the Electoral Board that it could not hold any election until a new Board was elected by the National Assembly. With it, the Highest Court in Venezuela suspended our right to vote until the Chavez controlled Assembly names a new Board. Five months have passed and Venezuela has only been a democracy in name as the right of Venezuelans to hold elections simply does not exist.
It is interesting that it was Chavez himself who last year, when the opposition was promoting the consultative referendum, would say that the opposition should wait until Aug. 19th 2003 when it could have a recall referendum on his mandate. Many abroad did not understand why the opposition wanted to hold a consultative referendum, the reason was simple, Chavez claimed to have a mandate for his “revolution” from the people, however, the people did not vote for what he interpreted to be his mandate but for an end to corruption, crime and better Government, none of which he has delivered. Thus, the opposition reasoned, were Chavez to lose the consultative referendum he could no longer claim to have a mandate from the people. But we were never able to vote on it.
And if Chavez has his way, we will never be able to vote on the recall referendum either. As the fateful date of Aug. 19 th. is getting closer the Chavez Government has been speaking and acting as if the recall referendum was an invention of the opposition with no foundation, despite the fact that it was Chavez himself who introduced the concept in the Venezuelan Constitution. Of course, he never believed when his popularity was at its peak that the conditions for a recall referendum against him would ever be fulfilled. But they are, pushing Chavez and major figures of his Government into saying the referendum will not take place, should not take place and will not take place. This includes the highest ranking members of the Venezuelan military who should not even speak about such matters. But such is the state of this pseudo-democracy under the Presidency of Hugo Chavez.
Last night, Chavez was at it again when he once again forgot about the principle of separation of power issuing legal opinions that are simply meant to intimidate and confuse the population. Chavez said that only those that voted or had the right to vote in the 2000 Presidential election could vote in a recall referendum. Why does Chavez say this? He is trying to stretch Article 72 of the Venezuelan Constitution that says that all electoral mandates are recallable after the mid-point of the term for which a person was elected. The article also says “When a number of voters equal or larger that elected the official were to vote in favor of revoking, as long as the number of voters taking part in the referendum is equal to or larger to 25% of the registered voters….” Note that the article talks about a number of voters, it does not specify that they had to vote in the election which gave the official the mandate in the same manner in which the second part of the article talks about registered voters. In any case, Articles 62 through 64 of the Constitution would bar any alternate interpretation when they say:
Article 62: All citizens have the right to participate in public matters…
Article 63: Voting is a right…
Article 64: All Venezuelans that are 18 years of age or older who are not barred politically or incarcerated have the right to vote…
Thus, unless Chavez were to bar politically all Venezuelans that have turned 18 since his election, there can be no justification from taking away that right from anyone. The reason he wants this is simple, Chavez’ dwindling popularity is inversely proportional to the age of the voter; barring these segment of the population from voting would take away a big chunk of votes from the opposition.
Chavez also said last night that he would be able to run if a recall referendum against him were to be successful. I have argued before why this may not happen but would like to discuss it and reference it again. Article 233 of the Constitution says:
“These will be absolute absence of the President:……the popular removal of his mandate….When an absolute absence of the elected President occurs during the first four years of the constitutional period there will be an election within the thirty days following the event…In those cases, the new President will complete the corresponding constitutional period”
To me the above paragraph is quite clear, it talks about “absolute absence” and the “new President” will complete the period. To me the use of the words absolute absence and new clearly indicate that Chavez simply can’t run.
As if this were not sufficient, today the pro-Chavez forces in the National Assembly proposed a Constitutional Amendment so that both the members of the Supreme Court and the National Election Commission can be elected and removed by a simple majority of the Deputies of the Assembly and not by the current two-thirds. This is clearly another travesty of the Chavistas whereby they want to legislate to accommodate their purposes. . The problem with this proposal is that the Constitution requires that any amendment be approved by 50% of the voters; however, the Chavistas seem to have forgotten that there can no be elections in Venezuela until a new Electoral Board is elected. Even if it were possible, there are only twenty days left for the opposition to turn in the petition for the recall referendum, but there is not enough time for the Assembly to approve an amendment, thus the recall would take precedence. The move simply indicates the type of undemocratic tricks Chavez and his Government are willing to use in order to bar any vote on Chavez and his mandate. We know about this in Venezuela, but the world still believes that Chavez is operating under legality. The next few months will demonstrate the outlaw nature of Chavez and his cronies use all of the dirty tricks possible to subvert democracy in Venezuela. Just wait and see….