Archive for March 22nd, 2007

Venezuelan National Assembly to investigate”mafia” Justices of the Supreme Court

March 22, 2007

In a very revolutionary step, the National Assembly called today for investigating seven Justices of the Supreme Court, explicitly mentioning the name of Justice Cabrera, of the Constitutional Hall, because they are part of a “mafia” and they dared change an article of the income tax bill written by that Assembly.

According to the Deputies a crime was committed  they also asked the “Moral Power” to investigate the case, in order to determine whether there was a crime, which in turn could lead to the removal of these seven Justices. The Court is being accused of making an illegal interpretation of the Income Tax Bill, because President Chavez ordered a cap on civil service salaries, which affects the Justices. By interpreting the law this way, the Deputies suggested, the Justices were increasing their salaries, since they receive a number of bonuses and perks besides their salary, which will now become tax free.

The case arose form the recent interpretation
by the Court of the Income Tax Bill, with regards to what is income or not. The Court did not rewrite the article, as suggested by the Deputies of the National Assembly, but simply interpreted one article based on the text of the new 2000 Constitution. Somehow it would seem difficult to argue that it is not the domain of the Supreme Court to interpret articles of Bills and that by doing so, they are “usurping” the role of the legislative branch, as the Deputies stated.

But this is another remarkable chapter in this bizarre revolution, which gives up its power to legislate to their almighty leader President Chávez on dozens of topics for 18 months, which are their domain, but gets irked by an interpretation by the Court of one article of a Bill they wrote.

The decision by the Court does create a problem in 2008 for the Central Government, as it would reduce income tax collection since bonuses and all “irregular” income will be exempt from income tax. As noted earlier by us, more importantly, it creates a possible huge loophole by which companies can create payments, which as long as they are irregular, would be exempt from income tax.

It is unclear why this conflict arises at this time, but an explanation may be that these Justices were the ones that are likely oppose some of the changes that would be introduced under the Enabling Bill by Chavez. Bills proposed under the Enabling Bill, need not be reviewed or approved by the national assembly, but they do need to reviewed by the Supreme Court to check on their Constitutionality. Thus, it may be that the judges to be investigated are the ones more “suspect” of not being absolutely loyal to the Lieutenant Colonel and may want to follow the law or some strange concept like that

Despite the fact that Chávez has single-handedly chosen all members of the current Court, there have been increasing conflicts with some of the Justices. The current Court has a very dubious origin from a legal point of view. When the new Constitution was approved, the old Court was simply eliminated. The problem was that there was no Congress until new elections took place. Chavismo invented then a new temporary legislative body, which was called the “Congresillo”, which had no legal basis or foundation on any known Venezuelan legislation, or on the old or the new Constitution. It was a small committee of twelve Chavistas, picked by Chavez himself, which ruled the country, approved budges and acted like a full Congress until the new National Assembly was elected six months later. This Congresillo nevertheless chose twenty new Justices for the Supreme Court, the Prosecutor General, the People’s Ombudsman and the Comptroller, in what is still considered by most experts as being completely illegal and began the usurpation of the rule of Law by the Chavez Government. But who could anyone appeal to? The new Court? Sure…

As if this were not enough, some of the Justices in this court quickly became unfriendly to the Government by committing the terrible crime of ruling against Chavez’ wishes. In the now infamous ruling on whether there was a coup or not in 2002, the Court ruled there wasn’t, as the definition of rebellion requires the use of military weapons, which was not the case. This led Chávez to call the Highest Court in the land “ A pile of shit” and then he began looking for a way of neutralizing it.

The first step was to begin questioning the credentials of some of the same Justices appointed by Chavez and his Congresillo, as indeed there were some who did not fulfill the requirements, which was widely publicized by the media when they were first appointed to no avail. But since this was too slow, some Chavista legal eagle came out with the brilliant idea that the Supreme Court Bill could be changed so that the National Assembly itself would increase the number of justices from 20 to 32 and twelve fresh and very loyal Chavistas could then be appointed to counterweight the not so loyal chavistas already on the Court. This was done by having the Court itself approve that the number of justices could be changed by a simple majority of the National Assembly.

But apparently there are now seven of these Justices who are too independent of the autocrat/Dictator and they need to be removed and/or changed and the wheels are apparently in motion to do so, using the income tax case as an excuse. Stay tuned by this new attempt at violating what little rule of law is left in the country by the autocrat and his cronies.