Adventures in supraconstitutionality

It's lovely in January
It’s lovely in January

Everyone is focused on quirky Article 233 of Venezuela’s Constitution. But what about its freaky cousin, Article 231? Here is what it says, in my rough translation:

Article 231. The candidate elected President will assume his or her role on January 10th of the first year of his or her term, by taking the oath in front of the National Assembly. If for any reason the President cannot take the oath in front of the National Assembly, he will do so in front of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

What are the chances that either the chavista majority or the entire Supreme Tribunal go to Havana to administer the oath to a dying Chávez, from his bed? Hell, I bet they wouldn’t even mind if he was unconscious, they will say they read his mind or something and voilá … oath taken, and habemus presidente.

As long as he is alive, Chávez will be President. I really doubt we are dealing with any different scenarios. It’s all oncological from here, folks.

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  1. I fully expect Chavez to be sworn in, and then to disappear till just after the four-year mark. If he dies, his death won’t be publicly acknowledged until it’s impossible for elections to happen before 2018.

  2. And what would they gain? Nothing that I can see. If they are going to play dirty (never did before…) they would try to keep the opposition in the dark and call the elections surprisingly, giving only 30 days for campaign, ok, but more than that?

  3. I get that they will do as they please. But I think that, as a matter of law, once members of the Supreme Court leave Venezuelan soil, where its law applies, they become a collection of individuals, and no longer an institution. They are constituted as a court by Venezuelan law, which has force only within Venezuela. They could not, for example, move to Miami or Kislovodsk and make binding decisions from there.

  4. >entire Supreme Tribunal go to Havana to administer the oath to a dying Chávez, from his bed?
    Well said. Stranger things than that will still occur, as time goes by … We can still be willing suckers for the macabre, medieval pantomimes. So what would be so outlandish to see an oath of office administered to a beloved inanimate person still much admired?

  5. Why would they do that? The whole point seemed to be that Maduro is the succesor. Why delay? They can appoint a nebbish (?) Deputy to call for elections and that’s it. Time is against them, they have to take advantage of next Sunday’s results and Chavez being alive.

    • I think they won’t dare declare the absolute absence while Chávez is still alive. If time is their enemy, why not declare the absolute absence now?

      • My guess is that they are still somehow hopeful that he can get better and want him to be sworn in January if possible, no matter what. January 10th is going to be thursday at bernie’s.

      • -Heresy
        -They need him for the 16D
        -They hope somebody in the opposition openly push for that, and use it: see the inhuman opposition, bla, bla, bla
        -Surprise factor

      • I think they will if the guy is seriously deteriorated. One paparazzi took pictures of Steve Jobs on his final days, I saw the picture accidentally because I was browsing a blog that happened to post it, it was really depressing. I don’t think they would want the people to see him in so bad shape. They would want the people to remember him differently. Phone calls won’t be enough either.

  6. We can’t assume that January 10th is a hard deadline. If the Chavista Politburo sees any advantage in having Chávez sworn in in an ICU in Havana, he will most likely take the oath of office there. However, they face two timelines crossing here: the oncological and the economical. “El Paquetazo” is a necessity that is being postponed until they have a better idea of what is to come. At some point, the economic situation will result in an official devaluation and the adjustment of the gas subsidy. In a country that imports almost everything and where the people suffer from oil-entitlement-syndrome, both moves would be highly unpopular. Also, the Government will have to cut spending, and spending has been one of the ways they have secured elections, particularly the recent ones. Without Chavez as the candidate, after a devaluation, a gas price hike and some spending cuts, the PSUV would face the most difficult election of its existence.

  7. Everyone is talking about politics and I needed to find out through foreign media that the recovery of Chavez does not go that well. Anyone ever thought about what cancer actually does with a person and his or her family?

    • We can ask that to the Families of Simonovis, Vivas, Afuini, Brito and all the mothers who have lost someone in the hands of violence in the streets. Do you really believe Chavez’s family feels a least 1% bad for those people? If so, why haven’t they convinced Chavez to release for example Simonovis who also has cancer?

      • Or we could ask the families of those killed by Simonovis and Vivas on April 12th and 13th. Those poor guys. Isn’t it so outrageous that you have to go to prison when you kill innocent people?

        • I guess we missed the part where the actual physical evidence was presented that proved they killed anyone, or gave orders to kill anyone.

          But what do you care about evidence anyways?

          • What a poorly written piece on Aporrea, I couldn’t understand anything. If the goal is to convince people they are guilty, it falls way short.

          • Funny, instead of engaging the actual evidence, such as recordings of the named subjects discussing how they are “neutralizing the taliban”, you instead focus on how the article is written?

            What a glaringly obvious example of someone who believes whatever they want to believe, regardless of the evidence.

          • Yeah, when I’m being judged, I don’t care if my lawyer prepares an intelligible defense, or not. Evidently, logic and order of one’s thoughts, verbally or in writing, makes no difference to you, GAC. You don’t even realize how ridiculous you come across, as you hold on to your Papi symbology.

          • What evidence? As any lawyer will tell you, all the evidence in the world is useless if you can’t present it to a jury in a coherent way. You need to tell a story, not present a bunch of garbled, disjointed voice recordings.

            I honestly read that piece with an open mind, and I came away more confused than before. But I guess I’m not the target audience for this.

          • JC,

            What evidence? Well, let’s see, a recording of the suspects discussing how they had infiltrated the building where the shots originated, and how they were “neutralizado los talibanes”…. “puro efectivo”….

            Funny, you just simply can’t engage the evidence, so you pretend it doesn’t exist. Honest much?

          • Alright, I’ll take the bait.

            Without knowing much about the trial, that the police infiltrates a building where there is a shooting sounds to me like the police is doing their job. And “neutralizando talibanes” is hardly a smoking gun. It doesn’t even reach the level of toy gun. I mean, “neutralizar talibanes” can mean anything from “fire back in self defense” to “try and disarm the bastards.”

            If this is all you’ve got, I feel more sympathy for Vivas and Simonovis than I used to, But maybe you’re too busy questioning the honesty of strangers to think clearly. Or maybe it’s just the grief clouding your brain.

          • Funny, you claim to have read the article, and even criticized how it was written (and somehow attributed that to the prosecution, who obviously had nothing to do with the article) but somehow you missed all the details.

            There wasn’t any shooting in the building until the PM infiltrated it, as indicated by numerous eye witnesses. The PM infiltrated, DRESSED AS CIVILIANS, (you keep ignoring this) and began shooting down at the street, as numerous witnesses stated.

            The “neutralizando talibanes” just further corroborates what the witnesses already say. You can try to say that it means that they were just firing back in self defense, or trying to disarm them, but it doesn’t make any sense. They clearly say are trying to neutralize them from their position UP ABOVE!!

            “El grupo Fenix debería estar instalado en todos esos bloques de arriba, tratando de, ver si neutralizan a toda esa gente… ”

            How exactly were they going to disarm them from up above Juan?

            And you are pretending that the recordings are the only evidence, and ignoring all the rest of the evidence presented, such as eyewitness testimony and bullet trajectory evidence that shows shots were fired from the PM’s position. The recordings just further corroborate all of this. But don’t just take it from me, take it from the members of the very PM who admitted it:

            Leonardo Navas:
            “debo señalar que lo que se va a escuchar en esa grabación son algunas cosas que son bien delicadas y que comprometen en una conspiración a algunas autoridades de la policía en los hechos del 11 de abril. Eso es importante que se conozca y yo vengo acá para hacerla pública porque no quiero estar inmerso en lo que es el encubrimiento de situaciones que son de carácter penal. En la grabación se evidencia, claramente, cuál fue la participación de la Policía Metropolitana, en el momento cumbre del 11 de abril, y quedan al descubierto algunas cosas que ellos han tratado de tapar”.

          • But I shouldn’t have spoon feed this to you Juan. If you were genuinely interested you would have read the article in first place.

            And as you pathetically claim that the recordings don’t prove they were shooting, you completely ignore the eyewitness evidence. I mean, its not like no one saw them shooting. Several eyewitnesses from inside the building testified that they were shooting down at the people from the building. That, together with the bullet trajectory evidence, is more than enough to prove that people were killed by those shots.

            Congratulations for turning cold-blooded murders into your “poor victims of persecution”.

          • And the article clearly says that they are only focusing on one part of the evidence against the comisarios. There was a lot more evidence presented, including:

            “se realizaron 230 audiencias, se presentaron 265 experticias, 5700 fotos y 20 videos, además declararon 198 testigos y 48 expertos.”

            Those who claim there was “no evidence” obviously are full of shit.

          • Not to mention the fact that one comisario who was in La Nacional, Emigdio Delgado is caught on the recording saying “no voy a seguir matando gente.”

            What more fucking proof do you need?

          • UFFFFF! Aporrea! That fount of Wisdom, Truth, Decency and Veracity!

            Thank you so much, GAC. I’ll consider it my Christmas present. Or Festivus. Or Hanukkah. Or Kwanzaa. Or Whatever Is Significant To You this Season!


          • The article isn’t even from Aporrea. And regardless, what a weak attempt to discredit the evidence… by attacking the webpage where the information is hosted?

            The most amazing thing is that you guys can’t even be honest with yourselves.

          • Get a Clue,

            You’re a fucking dishonest prick. When we talk about evidence we talk about proving that PM was shooting people without being shot at first. We’re talking about proving that the bullets from PM’s were the ones found in the victims on the chavista side. We’re talking about EXPRESS orders to murder people; “neutralizar” doesn’t mean “murder”. None of these were proven in the trial against the PM’s. If anything, Chavez should be behind bars for ordering the deployment of “Plan Avila”.

            Honestly, sometimes you have a decent Stiglitz- kind of argumentation that’s persuasive, I’ll give you that. But when it comes to anything else you’re like any other stereotypical Chavista: you insult and apply a double standard when it comes to judging chavistas and when judging the opposition: If a PM is shown pointing his gun, that automatically means we was given orders to massacre chavistas. When a former member of the TSJ alleges Chavez leads a narco-government that control all branches of government, he’s probably lying.

            I encourage everyone in this forum to ignore GAC, he’s nothing but a provocateur.

          • PM,

            Whether or not ballistic evidence exists, you can convict a person of a crime based on witness testimony (of which there is a shitload, even people inside La Nacional who watched the police officials fire on people down below), and on circumstantial evidence such as a recording of the person admitting to firing from the place where the shootings took place.

            You have to be an idiot to think that the police were simply firing back at people who fired at them first. Then why on earth would they infiltrate La Nacional building, dressed in civilian clothing??? Is that what police usually do when being fired on? They go home and put on civilian clothing and then come back and infiltrate a building??? Does that make any sense at all.

            Seriously, if you guys aren’t willing to engage the evidence, just admit it. JC basically already did so.

          • “If a PM is shown pointing his gun, that automatically means we was given orders to massacre chavistas. When a former member of the TSJ alleges Chavez leads a narco-government that control all branches of government, he’s probably lying.”

            This is exactly what I’m talking about. Is the evidence just a picture of a PM pointing his gun? Nope. The evidence is a recording of the PM chiefs discussing how they had infiltrated La Nacional building (where the shooting came from) dressed in civilian clothing (why?), and were “neutralizado los talibanes.” The evidence is a whole bunch of eyewitnesses who say they saw the officials firing down from the windows of the building.

            Yes, I suppose “nuetralizado talibanes” means they were sending them flowers or something?

            Christ, are any of you even slightly capable of honesty?

          • I’m still waiting for your evidence that 11A was planned. Now you also have to prove PM’s shot Chavistas intentionally without being shot at first by orders from Simonovis et al. It piles up.

          • Proof that 11A was planned? Are you serious? The coup leaders themselves discussed how they planned it on live television the next day!

        • I guess that Simonovis and Vivas are also responsible for the death of Jorge Tortoza and the injuries of Malvina Pesate. Or probably they shot themselves. Any of those explanations is more credible than the imaginary CIA snipers (assisted by Casa Militar?) that you pro-government fans love…

          Ten years and a half and we are still waiting for the Truth Commision that the chavismo promised! But who need that when there are 8,5 millions gullible persons that prefer propaganda over the truth?

    • We’re discussing about Hugo Chávez the head of state and head of government of Venezuela. Hugo Chávez the human being is very well cared for in Havana. He’s got the medical staff he reckons proficient, is surrounded by his family and closest allies, has all the privacy he wants, has all his expenses covered, and has plenty of people in Venezuela and across the Americas devoting time to him. The commentators of this blog cannot give Chávez what he really needs: good health.

        • I think Art 231 only applies for “normal” elections, with full 6 years period, but if Art 233 applies:
          En los casos anteriores, el nuevo Presidente o Presidenta completará el período constitucional correspondiente.
          then only the time left counts (i.e. the period will be shorter)

          • The tricky thing is that, this constitutional iteration only dates back to 1999 and has never known a presidential transition (discounting Carmona, Cabello which were extra-constitutional) so there’s no real precedent to speak of. To me this means that the TSJ can interpret pretty much anything they want into the laws. When is someone temporarily incapacitated rather than permanently? Can a 30-day president declare a state of emergency? Propose an amendment referendum? Nobody really knows. Same goes for 231.

          • It’s frightening to realize these matters were handled much more carefully under the 1961 Venezuelan Constitution (art. 186 to 188).

  8. Another supraconstitutionality is the use of the information points-computer databases to control who has voted and who not, I hear today PSUV Sucre candidate talking about that, not so cryptically, is that legal? I know,” legal, illegal, we do that”, but couldn’t be put on discussion at least? Could somebody at least capture evidence about that?
    They will try to put pressure on voters this time again and then in the next elections… Sure, people are free to vote for whoever they want, but, “how is that they knew I didn’t already vote, will they know what I will vote?”

  9. Juan, Francisco.

    Let’s forget about Chávez for few hours and concentrate in the possible paquetazo. Is it just escuaca´s warmongering or does this country really need a macroeconomic adjustment?
    According to Juan Fernandez’ maths (“PDVSA es incapaz de producir divisas”, Zeta Magazine N 1882), Venezuela is just producing 2.4 mbd, from which we’ve got 700,000 to cover internal demand, 300,000 to keep Cuba afloat and 400,000 as repay for the Chinese leonine loans. That leaves us with 1,000,000 to survive (Rafael Poleo dixit). Then in 2012 we have around US $ 55 thousand million on imports, continues Fernandez “with the budget’s price of the oil barrel set at US $ 55, we would need 2,739,726 bd to be able to cope with imports, but if we assume the international price for the Venezuelan basket will remain on US $ 104,09, we would still need 1,447,640 bd to cope with imports.” This, without adding the rest of oil barrels we gift everyday to small Central American countries and Caribbean islands.
    How long will the Chavernment be able to hold the adjustment? Can they facilitate a transition to, as Lusinchi did, pass on to the next government the hot potato and then claim neoliberals are back?
    Forget about oncology. Let’s go back to Economics.

    • Chavismo in the opposition will try to heat el pueblo. That is something that will need to be deal with. On the other hand if there’s a regime change I foresee many big fishes fleeing due the information that could be obtained once they are out. Even if try scream witch hunt there has to be some accountability.

  10. Actually, there is a place in Havana they could try: The Venezuelan Embassy.

    Technically, Venezuelan soil subjected to Venezuelan laws. Can you imagine?

  11. Actually, this is a popular misconception. The Venezuelan Embassy anywhere is subject to the law of the host country, which has sovereignty, except insofar as set out in the Vienna Convention. The Convention gives the Ambassador the right to regulate entry, but does not otherwise displace sovereignty. So, for example, a killing in the Venezuelan Embassy in Kenya will be prosecuted under Kenyan law.

    • It’s important to bear in mind Art.18 of the 1999 constitution too. ‘The city of Caracas is the capital of the Republic and the seat of the organs of National Power. The terms of this article do not impede the exercise of National Power in other parts of the Republic.’ (But, implicitly, NOT outside it – any TSJ session convened outside the borders of the republic would be null and void, and a president thus sworn in would be an imposter.)

      • And yet Chávez issues decrees and gives orders from his hospital bed in Havana. Ultimately, whether or not a Cuban ceremony is valid or not would depend on … the TSJ!

        • That’s true enough. But I think there’s a distinction: up to now, for all the massive flaws in Venezuelan democracy, Chavez has been the constitutional president. If he were sworn in through some kind of chimbo process in a hospital bed in Havana he would instantly become an unconstitutional president. Doubly or triply so, in fact. The constitutionality of the Supreme Court itself is dubious, and on 27 December, seven of its members’ terms expire. They are apparently to be replaced by their suplentes, in a manoeuvre which is itself at odds with the constitution. Imagine if CAP, for example, had been sworn in in 1989 whilst hospitalised at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland – and what the left would have had to say about that. Something very similar to what the left had to say about Guillermo Endara being sworn in as president of Panama at Howard Air Force Base that same year, I imagine. (And Endara, too, had actually won an election.)

          There’s a more pragmatic point, too. Assuming HC is not going to resume business as usual, what would they gain? Just the ability to re-appoint Nicolas, so his interim presidency is legitimate? Isn’t it better to violate the constitution by keeping Maduro in office temporarily and have a snap election?

  12. “Supra-Constitutionality”: Martial Law. On the one hand, we have the Totally Corrupt Left (Mercenaries:Eva/GAC/Aliases; Chomsky-type intellectuals living in safe-haven workable Capitalist Democracies; leftist press; Hollywood Limousine Gadflies:Penn/Stone/Glover; Cuba/Bolivia/Ecuador/Brazil/Argentina/Uruguay/similar Country Chulos) desperately needing a totally-failed Venezuelan Communist Experiment built on an unrepeatable 10x increase in the price of oil (see Kepler fine Troll rebuttal on a recent MO Blog) to succeed. On the other hand, we have CC-type Blue-Sky-Thinking Intellectuals debating the fine points of a Venezuelan Constitution that has never really been observed, and which has been used as Handy-Wipes by the Chavistas. And, then we have Alek Boyd’s Real Venezuela (I visited Jaji/environs in the mid-70’s-idyllic-you were lucky): much living hand- (weekly minimum wage of $50 at a realistic 10/1) to- mouth (Mercal way-below-cost food), with 2-3 weeks of largely imported food supply in the Country=a bomb waiting for a spark (Chavez’s death/heavily-armed street criminals) to explode. The Country needs a Pinochet, but none in sight, and difficult in these times of “Human Rights”. After Martial Law and unforeseeable chaos, the best that can be hoped for is a transitional Junta Civico-Militar , representing both Chavismo/Opposition, leading to an eventual electoral solution.


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