While everyone seems to think that it will be clear sailing
from here until the November elections, I have been worried by the fact that
the Enabling Bill, giving Chavez extraordinary powers in all matters, expires
around mid-July. (I am not sure precisely on what day it was enacted)
While opposition candidates have been going around talking
about local issues and jockeying for position so that they can show up
prominently in the polls that will select the candidates, I have worried about
this issue a lot. Worried, because last time Chavez had an Enabling Bill in
2000, he came up with 42 controversial Bills, including the Land Bill, at the
last minute, which became the rallying point for the opposition to his
Government. Unfortunately, those Bills were presented with ten days left in the
Enabling Bill, without any discussion, and most of them became the rule of law
to this day.
Much like in the year 2000, the Government has said little a
about the couple of dozen Bills that will be magically presented to us before
mid-July. There will be little discussion, we have seen the movie before, but
what we will see will help Chavez do what he was unable to do in the referendum
he lost in December.
Unfortunately, this time the Bill will go beyond the
economic arena, as once again Chavez violated the laws by including
non-economic matters in the Bill. But we do know that he intends to change the
Commercial Code, which regulates private companies in Venezuela, because in
Chavez’ words: “it is too old”. We are likely to see changes in the Banking
Bill and who knows how many other laws.
I worry about it, because only the paranoid survive, but I
must say that I was very happy to hear the university students go
to the National Assembly today and ask that the Assembly do not extend
Chavez’ rights under the Enabling Bill. It may not happen, but at least someone
is worrying about this issue lost in the frenzy of the campaign for local
You see, apparently Chavez wants to extend the period of the
Enabling Bill for six months, so that he can issue his secret “package” of
Bills after the November regional elections and not create a controversy now.
Which only goes to show that , once again, Chavez has something to hide from
the “people” that he claims to rule for and so dearly love.
Time is running out for the Assembly to give Chavez an
extension, but the students have proven to be much more foresighted than the
opposition, putting the Enabling Bill on the headlines and attempting to send
the message that there is at least one important opinion group that will not
put up with arbitrary new Bills that violate both the spirit and the letter of
the results of the December referendum.