Archive for January 7th, 2009

Hugo Chávez: From illegal amendment to illegal Constitutional reform

January 7, 2009

When Hugo Chávez first suggested an amendment to allow his indefinite reelection, one of the arguments given by his legal cronies was that an amendment was different than a reform and therefore was not covered by the Constitutional limitation (see Chapter IX) that the same reform can not be submitted within the same Constitutional period.

In time, polls started coming out against Chavez suggesting that the amendment proposal would be defeated by some 17-20 percentage points in a referendum, which would be hard to overcome, given that Chavez wants to also give the referendum an illegal fast track and vote on this before March.(The longer he waits, the more the people will feel the drop in oil prices)

Thus, yesterday the autocrat switched gears, saying that he will now ask for a Constitutional Reform (even if he is not calling it that) that would allow any elected position to have no time limitations. The idea behind this is that Chavez hopes that now other politicians will join him in his support of the proposal and this may somehow lead to its approval.

Chavez had curiously been against this concept, going as far as suggesting there is only one Chavez, so why should other positions be subject to reelection. But politics is politics and that is all Chavez cares about, so he changed his mind in the hope that this would allow the approval of the indefinite reelection for his Presidency which is scheduled to end in earlier 2013.

Except that this is plainly illegal. The Constitution is extremely clear on this and the question of Chavez’ indefinite reelection can not be brought up again until after he leaves office. In fact, if the law and the Constitution were followed, there could be no referendum until December and one could consider a proposal to have everyone but the President be elected indefinitely, but not Chavez. That is what the Bolivarian Constitution clearly and unequivocally states.

But the opposition seems to be playing Chavez’ game now. Since there is no hope that the Supreme Court or any Higher Court will go against the autocrat’s wishes and whims, then they are throwing Chavez’ playbook back at him saying, ok, let’s go vote on it and see what happens, because they know not only that they defeated Chavez once already, but that polls say that the people are so much against voting on the issue again.

Thus, this poor country has been thrown into a sort of legal limbo, where both sides are willing to step outside the rule of law and let illegal votes and referenda decide major issues.

The danger is that bending the rule of law like this by both sides may be one day bent beyond anything we can imagine today  by one of the two sides and turn the country into anarchy, where everything can be justified independent of the laws and the Constitution, as long as people vote on it.

And that is not what organized societies are all about. So, beware!