The proposed Constitutional Reform

July 28, 2007

Constitutionalist Hermann Escarra gave a press conference to outline the changes the Commission for Constitutionla Reform will present to President Chavez. Esacrra claims to have a copy of the document (from his brother Carlos?) He has made the following observations:

Macro: The fundamental principles of the Constitution are outlined in the first 9 articles but are contained throughout the document. He mentions, as an example, Art. 19. which prohibits discrimination, to change it would require a Constituent Assembly because it is a fundamental right given to people. The same applies to articles like 152, which gives equality to all states, Art. 299 on social justice and democratization of the economic system or 339 on when the Government can declare a state of emergency. Thus, even if the first nine articles were not being violated, this would not imply that a Constitutent Assembly is not needed.

On the changes that will be proposed, he notes the following, which I have shortened, to note the most significant ones:

On the Political division of the Republic:

The Government creates communal cities and territories, special federal territories and the Head of State may at any time and by decree change the political organization of the States and municipalities without the people voting on it.

On Human Rights and Fundamental Liberties

–It establishes new limits to individual rights such as when they go agaisnt the general interest or against “constitutional rights”
–The hierarchy of international Human Rights Treaties of Art. 23 is removed.
–Retroactivity is eliminated for all but penal cases (Art. 24)
–Injunctions will not be allowed if a state of exception is activated.
–The right to access information is limited. People will now have to prove direct and legitimate interest to the inforamtion. (Art. 28)
–It establishes limits to international justice on Human Rights.
–It allows for revoking the nationality to those not born in Venezuela.
–It establishes a new crime when someone is being “persecuted by public clamor”
–A judicial order will no longer be needed to raid a home.
–The State no longer protects property (Art. 55) it now only refers to “possesions”
–Freedom of Speech is now limited (Srt. 57), introducing the concepts of “hate and promoting crimes”
–It limits parent’s rights over their kids, adolescents will have the right to decide who educates them.
–One will not be able to invoke freedom of conscience when it may affect society,a person or group of persons (Art. 61)
–The “people’s” sovereignty is now limited as a function of the needs to build a socialist state (Violation of Art. 5 of the Constitution)
–All requirements for referenda are increased.
–The health system will no longer be decentralized.
–Young people will have a duty to participate in the social transformation of the country.
–Freedom of work is eliminated (Art. 87)
–University autonomy is eliminated and Graduate Programs will be determined by the State.
–Limitations to the media are introduced in Art. 108.
–Only the State may have a monopoly
–Art. 115 creates the concepts of :Public property controlled by the State, Social Property controlled by the State, Collective property controlled by the State, Mixed property under the custody of the State and private property which may be confiscated when it affects the rights of third parties or society. Confiscation will be decided by the State itself, not a judicial decision.
–Public workers lose the right to strike.
–Communal Councils are created.

Organization of the State

–States will no longer be able to organize their municipal division
–States will no longer be able to exploit roads and highways commercially.
–The National Assembly will be able to remove a Mayor when the Communal Power requests it.
–The President will name “Territorial Vice-Presidents” for matters or sectors. He will decide their function, they will be above the Governors.
–The President can be reelected indefinitely.
–Qualifications to be a Justice of the Supreme Court are made easier
–Decentralization is eliminated.
–The Bolivarian Armed Forces are created.
–The Civil Registry is eliminated.
–Art. 299,302 and 303 define the Socialist State.
–Limits to the debt of the State are eliminated.
–The Central Bank will no longer be autonomous.
–The Armed Forces may assume investigative powers on penal cases.
–The fight against imperial States is introduced as part of the security doctrine of the country.
–Under a state of exception only the right to life communication and torture are left.States of exception will no longer have a time limit.

Changing the Constitution

–Number of votes required to change goes up.
–The article on Civil Disobedience (350) is now limited to approval by the Supreme Court.

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