Enabling Law: Ud. lo vio por Caracas Chronicles


Chavez just announced it. Lame-duck shmame-duck.

An Enabling Law (Ley Habilitante, in Spanish) would give Chávez special powers to rule by decree for a fixed period of time, effectively bypassing the incoming National Assembly.

Quico adds: Can’t resist throwing this in. If you were reading Caracas Chronicles back on January 25th, you could see this coming:

Personally, my guess is that [if chavistas lost the election], they’d give Chávez a sweeping Enabling Law, good for 60 months, enabling him to legislate by decree for the length of the legislative term. And then they’d vote away what oversight powers parliament still has, handing the opposition a hollowed out shell of a Capitolio.

Granted, back then, I saw it as something Chávez would do if he lost control of the Assembly after 26S – as it turns out, he’s doing it despite the 59-41% seat advantage he walked away with after his 52%-48% popular vote loss.

More Habilitante goodness from the archives – this time from 2007 – after the jump.

If approved, this Enabling Law will make Chávez a dictator. I don’t mean that in some fuzzy, propagandistic way, I mean it in the original Roman sense of the term: an official legally empowered to do anything he wants without being accountable to anyone. Hell, at least the Romans were frank enough to call their dictators dictators, and had the common sense to give them unlimited powers for 6 months only. Chávez? He wants three times that.

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  1. So I had an, erm, interesting experience with newly elected Deputy Dinorah Figuera last night.

    When I heard about the Enabling Law, I was shocked, enraged, mortified. I went on Twitter to read what people were saying about it, and the first thing I see is a tweet from Dinorah Figuera (whom I don’t know personally), saluting some of her #FF friends.

    Snark-meister that I am, I couldn’t resist tweeting this: “Diputada @Dinorahfiguera reacciona ante escandalosa Ley Habilitante informandonos de sus #FF.”

    Well, a few minutes later, she was writing me, in-dig-na-da, re-tweeting an #FF tweet I had written a few hours ago, way before the Ley Habilitante was announced, and saying “Y esta es tu reacción?” (An aside: I hate these FFs, rarely do them, and have now decided never to do them again; they’re silly even for Twitter standards).

    So a back and forth ensued, during which I reminded the diputada that my reaction to the Enabling Law was neither here nor there, since … I’m not a diputado! But my main point, that elected deputies have a duty to respond to this with a healthy dose of shock and aggressiveness, fell on deaf ears. She kept on saying that it doesn’t matter if one is a deputy or not, and inviting me to an event today.

    She then sent me a text message, with her cell phone number, inviting me to react by accompanying her to Catia to hand out groceries to the recent flood victims.

    I stopped communicating when I realized it was useless. Figuera’s mindset is stuck in 2003, when we were all part of an amorphous, leaderless mass of opposition voters, with lots of passion and nowhere to go, when a bailoterapia in the Altamira bypass was considered an opposition strategy.

    But the moment requires much more than that. An Enabling Law at this point is tantamount to a coup, and the deputies that are seeing their power being taken away are reacting by… handing out bags of food to flood victims in Catia.

    Am I entitled to be frustrated, or am I simply being petty?

    • You are entitled to be enraged, actually. You know my anger about the response from Memo Arocha and others. These blokes think we can solve things with “better management at community level” and “repairing streets in our municipality” and “we (PARTY X with reach in one single state or two of 23) will think over it and apply it here”


    • I guess she’ll feel better when she doesn’t find you handing out food with her.

      Her reaction is typical of the entire MUD.

      Shit, I would rather see them go “guerilla warfare” and start burning official trucks and the like, just like Jaua and his goons did pre-Chavez.

      It seems the only things “el pueblo” respects are semi violent manifestations that involve destruction of property. Maybe then they’ll start to take the MUD seriously. This “Marquis de Quensberry” attitude the MUD has is going nowhere with “el soberano”.

    • Roberto, the problem is not a “marques” thing. The problems are that

      1) they have no idea about national politics, about state, about governance, no idea. They have idea about fixing pavements and traffic lights.

      2) they go on with a local feudal mentality we had in the XVI century. Only Chávez, with the army and the petrodollars can afford to have such mentality now. We cannot, we have to work together and with a plan because we are not dealing with the Swedish government, but with a banana republic dictatorship.

  2. OK, let me play the role of devil’s advocate for a sec.

    a) I heartedly agree with Juan and understand his outrage. Chavez’s new enabling law is antidemocratic, unconstitutional and worrying by whatever standards. If it proceeds as purported, it will amount to (another) institutional coup.

    b) However, this does not mean that the opposition should go out and respond with ‘shock and aggressiveness’. Although they are entitled to be outraged, I don’t see any benefit in focusing on denouncing Chavez’s anti-democratic practices right now. That is *precisely* what Chavez wants after all, because it shifts the debate to a polarized/zero-sum scenario in which he will be the victor. So Ms Figuera’s strategy does not strike me as irrational. The opposition should continue focusing on building up good will and an image of effectiveness and empathy across the socio-political spectrum, with a view to persuading some moderate centrist voters, disenchanted with Chavismo, to stay home or, even better, go out and vote for the opposition in 2012.

    Without those moderate voters, Chavez may not win in 2012.

  3. To Ledezmate (verb): The action or actions of decimating a popular election by subtracting any power to the newly elected representatives before they walk into office. “You’ve been Ledezmated” means you have an office and a title, but are useless to do anything with them.
    Acts of Ledezmation were very popular in Venezuela’s 5th Republic, when El Gordito would smirkly affirm that if he acted by the book, he clearly couldn’t be a dictator. After moving to Ledezmate the Internet, the 5th Republic ordered the 451º brigades to roam the city and burn laptops and personal computers. Survivors, gathering in the outskirts of Caracas, started learning blogs by heart to preserve them for the brigades.
    Don’t cry, you’ve only been Ledezmated, punk!

  4. For those who have difficulty seeing trouble ahead of time on the road through ” intuition”, there are signs along the way like:

    “Blasting Zone Ahead” or “Deer Crossing”…etc etc.

    However these “road signs” were obvious to many of us 6 or 8 years ago, which is why some didn’t want to vote.Every time Venezuelans have voted, they tell the outside world that they still believe Venezuela is a democracy.

  5. This is just the latest act of obviousness in which the revolution clearly states that they will not give back the control of the country in a democratic election. Simple as that.

    It deeply worries me that the opposition seems to have just one plan to get the country back: a democratic election; while the revolution has many plans to stay in power, all their plans are illegal but with a legal masquerade.

    My point is that we better be prepared for tumultuous times ahead because the revolution is closing all democratic options for the opposition.

    A few years ago I remember people saying that “we should not fall for the temptation of a fast solution (a nondemocratic solution)”, but today, what options do we have?

    • If there is in fact another plan, its best if nobody knows… lol.

      But I agree, these thugs will not leave democratically, if… er… when, they lose power they are pretty much screwed, so they can´t let it happen…

  6. Jau, the problem is.
    If you overthrow the government via coup or any other non-democratic mean, you lose credibility and you go back to a hundred years ago in venezuela. We’re(the opposition) trying to move forward. But since the country has been moving backwards or much better, sideways, yes,the democratic options are being slowly closed, if they’re not completely obliterated by now.

    So yes,the ideal thing is to vote and kick em out.
    But when you see a bunch of overpaid military groups supporting the government, and the president is a “coronel” with all state powers and organisms completely controlled, what options do ya have left.
    We’ve seen this with Stalin,Mao and Castro. They want to perpetuate themselves in power “hasta que el cuerpo aguante”, and only have one political party. It truly amazes me how people supports this. And even more, INTELLIGENT people i’ve met are 100% chavistas.

    But going back to the point, i think the only way right now is a non-democratic one,although the new Assembly gives some hope, stripped of power as it will be.
    A natural accident would be awesome,theres no one to blame.

    • “If you overthrow the government via coup or any other non-democratic mean, you lose credibility and you go back to a hundred years ago in venezuela.”


      What will happen in the future is only speculation,but what is happening now is that we have gone backwards while voting all these years.

      Civil wars can happen in countries that are democratic.Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez has waged undemocratic war on the people of Venezuela for some time now.The people have stubbornly refused to see the truth, because seeing the truth would require responsible action.

      The people have a right NOT to engage in fighting back, however I see no morality whatsoever in claiming superior tactics.Fighting to defend democratic ideals is a worthy reason to fight.Not fighting back is a function of giving up.

  7. Firepigette every time we vote we say that we believe in Democracy, not that this is a democracy. You have to remember what happened when in fact some did not play by the democratic rules; do you remember Carmona, doing away Congress, Supreme Court, ALL elected officials and swearing himself in? How did that helped? How did it help not to vote for congress in 2005? How did the guarimbas helped? We need to exhaust the democratic avenues before we launch ourselves to the mountains and create a Venezuelan version of FARC.

    I will quote what Quico said in January: “In a normal legislative election, your goal is to get more seats than the other team. In the twisted simulacra of democratic elections that undemocratic regimes hold, the real goal for democrats is to subvert the undemocratic regime, destabilizing its grip on power and helping nudge the country towards the restitution of democracy.”

    • “Firepigette every time we vote we say that we believe in Democracy,”

      bottom line:

      Not at all Moraima.It means that people either believe they live in a country where votes make a difference( you just said so yourself that you believe they make a difference), or that they are willing to play Chavez’s false game.It has not worked and will not work.It cannot work as long as Chavez is in power.He is the one with the power to subvert, not the opposition.

      Nothing in the past was done properly and/or with the full power of the opposition .Venezuelans have had little patience with sustained efforts and sacrifices.Venezuelan do not have the courage to disconnect from the Chavez regime and instead take the easy but false way out by ” voting” .I put voting in parenthesis because the results are voided.

  8. What Venezuelans had to do and did not do and still won’t do is to disconnect themselves from the regime in all ways even if this means facing hardships.They needed to strike and strike and boycott and boycott to bring the country to its knees.

    Instead we got tons of ninis who work for Chavez pretending to be Chavistas even when they are not, just to obtain benefits, and to “survive”.

    Many people could have( exercising more democratic principles than this useless voting) refused to play along.But no, they wanted to be as comfortable as possible.

    How many people voted for Chavez in the first place, out of vengeance against Accion Democratica??? How many voted irresponsibly??? Almost everyone I knew at the time.NOW they will not disconnect themselves from the regime because they cannot survive??? Give me a break.Venezuelans know little about these principles.

    People like that do not serve democracy.

    • Go talk to people like that. We cannot count on them, they won’t change. We want things to change even without them. If we were to do it as with PDVSA, again just a group would do it.
      You can talk all you want, you live abroad, like me.
      Neither you nor I are the ones who would have to go through it. We have to do things that in themselves can change things independently of how “vendidos” those ninis are

  9. So you suggest that all the country do what PDVSA employees did, lose everything trying to oust a goverment that it turns out everyone wanted to have? How is that more democratic than voting until we finally win? And we are not just wasting our time in “useless voting”, some people have been working on building a REAL mayority, one that no one can ignore and can actually convince people that there is an alternative.
    I am sorry but everytime I read people saying we should just DO something I can’t help but wonder what exactly is your proposal and are you willing to do it yourself. Usually no one who proposes the take the arms options is ready to do it…

    • Moraima,

      It’s more democratic to protest,boycott and strike than to vote because it is more honest.What is dishonest is putting on the pretense that Chavez will let the opposition win or if he lets them win that he would give them the power of their votes.It is not democratic to vote when we already know that the votes don’t count.We know it is a dictatorship and not a democracy.

      I have poor relatives who stay poor because they are anti-Chavez and they have more honor than greed.But I know many others who refuse to stay poor so they connect with Chavistas to get better jobs.I have one nephew who became the head of a large org. just through contacts, so he pretends to be Chavista.Shame on him….and if you knew him…very simpatico.

      If people cannot face hardships it will be impossible to get rid of Chavez.Venezuela is becoming nothing more than a mafia country like Russia.
      The corrupting influence has become too widespread.

      I even know of women who have slept with Chavistas to get cheap housing or a title to land.If people were willing to forgo these material benefits then there would be an opportunity for democracy but the corrupting influence of Chavismo has won the population over, NOT Chavez himself….
      and it has been so easy for Chavez to do this .

      It is too easy for many to vote against Chavez while pretending to be Chavez lite.It assuages their nagging consciences.


      I realize it is a lot harder for people in Venezuela than it is for most of us outside and for that reason together with my knowledge of the Venezuelan propensity to easy comfort,I have sometimes thought that voting is the only option as well.Not the BEST option , but the ONLY option.

      And I still think that voting might be all we will get, however once in awhile I say what I really wish, even if it is not possible.People have to disconnect en masse from this regime and protest indefinitely, and the world needs to know about the farse of HIS elections.Don’t you find it peculiar that so many people world wide still think there are democratic elections in Venezuela?Then there are those who might concede that they are a bit below board but do not care.Why should they care if so many Venezuelans do not seem to care (view from the the outside)?

      One more thought :Every year more and more bought off foreigners move to Venezuela to support him through voting.Soon it will not matter if most Venezuelans hate him.The new world wide trend:corrupt politicians opening a countries borders to potential voters and calling it generosity

  10. First of all, if the majority votes to change the government, then the public will know what the true will of the people is…. and that is important… Everybody should vote!

    Second, if the economy fails, the army will know what it has to do. Suppressing the public when it acts out desperation would be futile. Eventually, the government will be bankrupt, and all the king’s men and all the king’s horses can’t put Humpty back together again! That might be the only way to end this dictator. The collapse of the Soviet Union was from economic failure, wasn’t it?

    • I think Cuba has been broke for the better part of the last 50 years. So, yes, in a more or less normal country when the economy fails, the government falls, but…

  11. Oh yes, protest and violence gives Chavez an excuse to declare marshal law and blame economic decline and everything else on the unrest.

  12. A call to act (but without defining “action”) from Petkoff in Tal Cual today. Money quote (sorry, only spanish):

    “No es casual que se presenten conjuntamente las reformas de ambas leyes (Ley Resorte y de Telecomunicaciones). Son los dos brazos de una tenaza que asfixiará a la radio y televisión independiente, incluyendo el control de Internet, a semejanza de lo que ocurre en Cuba y en China. El truco con Internet es el de establecer un punto único de acceso a este medio, bajo control del gobierno. Todo lo que entrará y saldrá del país por la red sólo lo harán a través de ese punto único. Es como una llave de paso, que permitirá al gobierno decidir qué mensajes podrán o no circular por la red.”

    “Pero no se detiene allí. Los operadores de celulares e Internet serán responsables de los contenidos de los mensajes que se transmitan, esperándose de este modo, transformar a las operadoras en juntas de censura, encargadas de vigilar, autorizar o bloquear los mensajes que circulan a través de sus redes. Lisa y llanamente se establece un régimen de autocensura. ”

    “Total que el propósito es el de cerrar la libre circulación de ideas e información a través de la radio y la televisión. Esta en juego nada menos que la libertad de expresión, columna vertebral de la vida en democracia. ”

    “¿No vamos a hacer nada?”


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