Taking Stock

Chavismo has chosen the Red Pill, plunging us into a bizarre Matrix of nonsense constitutionalism.

To get a  sense of just how needless the constitutional crisis developing in Venezuela really is, let’s just step back from the play-by-play and take stock of where we are as of Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 – one day ahead of the official end of the 2007-2013 presidential period.

We have a president who hasn’t been seen in over a month, and whose health condition, following a fourth surgery for cancer, is unknown.  His post-operatory complications are described as “severe” and “stationary”. We don’t know the type of cancer he has, its location or its stage. We don’t know what prognosis he has. We don’t really know whether he’s alive or dead.

The information asymmetry at play is extreme, as the government refuses to honor its constitutional obligation under article 28 to inform us on matters of clear public interest. What we do know is that it stretches credulity well beyond breaking point to assert that, at this point, Chávez is exercising the powers of the office of the presidency: the man is too ill to even sign his name on a piece of paper.

Fortunately, the constitution includes clear guidance on what you’re meant to do when the president is temporarily or permanently incapacitated. Explicit mechanisms are in place to declare a temporary or permanent absence, each with its time frames and attendant procedures.

It’s at this point that things get bizarre: although these procedures are explicit in the constitution, chavismo refuses to invoke them.  The information minister publicly upbraids people who refer to Chávez – who, according to the Information Minister himself, is fighting a severe respiratory insufficiency –  as though he were temporarily incapacitated.

Now, as lector avispao Donacobius puts it,

Isn’t it obvious to anyone with common sense that the present circumstances constitute precisely the kind of situation for which the constitution mandates a medical board appointed by the supreme court? If not, then what circumstances would be? [Can anyone] come up with a reason (other than simple political expediency) why the TSJ is refusing to do so? Likewise, what circumstances might the constituyentes of 1999 have had in mind when they drafted the references to ‘faltas temporales’? Because if these are not they, I just can’t imagine what would be.

This unedifying spectacle could so easily have been avoided had the Supreme Court done its job and promptly produced a ‘common sense’ interpretation of the constitution that didn’t leave 30 million Venezuelans in limbo, governed by a president who’s barely conscious (if at all) and whose actions (if there were any) might, after 10J, be considered null and void according to a strict reading of the constitution (and Carrasquero’s jurisprudence). The government’s interpretation of everything in line with its short-term interests is the reason we’re in this mess.

The scale of the collapse of the rule of law we see in this sorry episode is stunning. We’re shredding the last remains of law-based government for no reason at all beyond chavismo’s obdurate refusal to accept what’s plainly evident – that Chávez is not in fact capable of exercising the office of the presidency at this time – and to follow the plain meaning of the constitution they wrote and accept the jurisprudence that chavismo’s own Supreme Tribunal has produced.

Because, and we really can’t repeat this too often, it wasn’t George W. Bush that established that you become president by taking the oath of office: it was Venezuela’s constitution.

It wasn’t the CIA that opined it was “plainly obvious” (resulta patente) that the juridical effects of taking office are conditional on actually swearing the Oath of Office: it was Venezuela’s own chavista-dominated Supreme Tribunal.

It wasn’t the U.S. Southern Command that established the guidelines for handling the president’s incapacity: it was the constituent will of the pueblo soberano.

We may not have the power to prevent the sheer flouting of the entire constitutional order in Venezuela right now, but we do have the power to document it, and the duty to object.

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  1. So it really begs the question:

    What are they hiding?

    During Chavez’ prior treatments in Havana they took pains to put out pics of him standing or clips of him walking and talking as soon as they could to dispel rumour.

    No one has seen him in public since December, and all we have are their word about his condition, which given how they have been acting makes you wonder if he’s not dead (or at least brain dead) at this point.

    The other thing I can think of is that no one wants to appear to be “wearing the dead mans clothes” until he’s actually pronounced for fear of bringing down upon him or herself the wrath of the masses and the label of ursurper. This may actually be the better hypotheses, and confirms that chavismo is more of a religion than it is a political movement.

    Perhaps on January 11th enough foreign actors will convince chavismo to start taking leadership roles the correct way.

    I guess we wait for 48 hours…….

    • I think it comes down to the personal ambitions and ego of the two main “successors”, one annointed the sash, the other coveting it. I think it also reflects the nebulous state of the President’s (since we can call him that for one more day) health.

      Maduro wants to run with this for as long as he can to solidify his base and, as mentioned by the esteemed keepers of this blog in other posts, promote himself as part of the Chavez legacy in forthcoming elections. Maduro’s only real option is to play this to the hilt since he runs a real serious risk (given lack of capital, both political and financial) to try the same gambit in an outright election. Cabello is okay with this, largely I think, because of reasons I’ve mentioned previously since he knows that eventually bad things cometh and he needs a foil that he can later leverage against when he makes his play. He hungers for power, but he’s patient enough to wait for it when he can be assured of holding it and not be blamed for any “adjustments”.

      Both are playing realpolitik at the moment; Maduro because its his sole chance to stay and Cabello because its his best chance of avoiding the forthcoming poison pill. Both have abrogated statesmanship in lieu of perceived personal advantage.

      To me, this indicates that Chavez is alive, but in such a state that its only a matter of time before he passes. Possibly comatose; certainly on medications that render him non compos mentis if he does have some consciousness. Either way, he’s likely not being taxed terribly much at this point and is possibly quite unaware (or at this late state of distress, uncaring) of the drama unfolding. As someone else mentioned, I can’t begin to imagine his physical state at this late point – I’ve seen late-stage lingering cancers with all the concomitant effects and the toll it takes on mind and body is horrific.

      This whole thing reeks to high heaven of the final petitioners and heirs running to the deathbed of a monarch to eek what they can prior to the passing. It all comes down to mors certa, hora incerta.

  2. At last! The Elephant in the Room is visible!

    The President is missing (in Cuba we are told). Treated by unknown physicians secretly from a secret ailment. For a year and a half it’s been on and off. Now that unknown state is to be prolonged for a half year… possibly made definitive.

    And people who might be interested in keeping him artificially alive and suffering (see Dysthanasia or “ensañamiento terapeutico”) contrary to any humane consideration and pointlessly from a therapeutic perspective… or alternatively in him dying “heroically” fighting the disease at some point… control all information coming about and from him. If someone hated Hugo Chavez and family and wanted him to go through hell on earth, they could never invent something more horrible.

    Because chavistas prefer blind ignorance to knowing something with precision. To me it’s the foremost symptom of fanaticism (whether the fascist kind or religious is up to you). I can see GAC, Cort and Arturo saying “I am not listeniing, LALALALALA…” if some info reaches their ears. But they are entitled to ignorance and to not making any decision believing that He shall rise from the near dead. Never mind that this same sheepish acceptance and selling out of rational conscience is what allowed them to cheer-lead (together with main beneficiaries Maduro and Cabello!!!) a seriously ill man to the gates of death.

    What’s hit it out of the ballpark is seeing our supposedly democratic institutions also “LALALALAing” through the last year and a half. It’s not morbid curiosity. It’s that decision making that prevents and solves Constitutional crises (and surreal situations like this) requires solid, objective information. And these Socialists are the people who are supposed to organize a more rational economic model?

    What’s worse, those withholding such information as needed to form an informed opinion and make decisions from the public and the powers of the State should be prosecuted. They did it in connivance with a foreign government too. Won’t say treason but…

    I can wager that short of an actual miracle by the unnamed physicians that nearly killed him (or a short apparent recovery where he feels better for a week to later die), that Hugo Chavez shall not be seen or heard of again while he “lives” or goes through whatever horrible surrogate of life they might keep him on. Of course, not by the public, nor the TSJ or AN. He won’t be sworn in.

  3. Great post and soon the hungry people will be taking stock literally…from wherever they can i.e. rustling! Your previous post and this highlight a murky future of food shortages.

  4. This is an excellent post! The blind refusal of the Chavista leadership to do what is obviously constitutionally required has seldom been stated with such clarity. Blowing up their own Constitution, which they swear to uphold, is a direct result of “Comandante” Chavez deciding to run again for President, risking just this scenario, doing so blinded by personal egotism.

  5. I am listening, even when you think I’m not.

    Many on this list have had the president dead for months, dying or will be by January 3rd.
    All a pipe dream as for now.

    In most governments, even in the US of A transparency is always lacking in all matters it seems. Certainly when it comes to the health of its leaders for obvious reasons. That said, could have the bureaucracy have handled it better? For sure! The psychoneurosis brought forth by y’all ( this phenomenon seems more like a trait in many) is amazing and would be ongoing even if the president was playing in a doubleheader in baseball as a pitcher. Y’all would be saying will his arm get sore? Are they really Venezuelan players behind him or Cubans or Dominicans? All manner of banter would take place. As is your right.

    But as a warning, y’all are whipping up something you may regret very soon, as you have seen on many occasions in Venezuela.The whip of the “counter-revolution” has always moved the grassroots forward.


    • Why don’t you knock off the meths, Cort?

      I agree that it’s not serious to give a fixed date for medical outcomes, particularly as The President of the Republic, his VP, the President of the National Assembly, and the Cubans handling him have not seen it fit to inform anyone, not the Venezuelan public, not the chavista grassroots, not the powers of the State, of his precise condition.

      Still, THE PROGNOSIS IS NOT CHANGED IN THE LEAST. The cancer that recurred two times after four surgeries, chemo and radio is not going to disappear. The patient is in a grave condition after the last surgery which DID NOT CURE HIM. He is very very likely going to die from it. Face it, though you would like to remain blissfully ignorant.

      We are not “whipping” anything or anyone, much less the Venezuelan people… If anyone is deceiving, leading through the nose and whipping the Venezuelan grassroots, it’s the PSUV, absent Hugo Chavez. And I hope that at some time they realize the extent of deception and treason committed on them and on Venezuela.

    • Kirchner, Lugo, Lula, Santos …. all have had cancer scares in the very recent past. Not one of them cited their right to ‘privacy’ as an excuse for not providing the relevant information. To the best of my knowledge, no one complained that they were not being ‘transparent’.

      Yet Chavez, who has shared with us on live tv details about his bowel movements and his sex-life – not to mention asking a minister if he could still get an erection after his vasectomy – has refused even to tell the nation what kind of cancer he’s suffering from, not to mention frequently lying about his state of health and his trips to Cuba. (‘Ya ni me acuerdo de eso’ …. I have to go to Havana for some sessions in a hyperbaric chamber… etc.). And you think that for his subjects … er, for Venezuelan citizens .. to demand accurate information, endorsed by the doctors who have actually treated him (and to speculate that the true situation may be worse than we are being led to believe), is symptomatic of ‘psychoneurosis’. Well, I do have psychoneurosis, but I’m not telling you what kind, or where in my brain it’s located.

    • Cort, since you bring up the US of A, what do you imagine even democrats would have been saying there if Obama, in the hospital, with no 3rd party information on his health, did not show up for oath of the new term?

  6. Any serious state would have declared him incapable of serving in December if not earlier. Cancer is a difficult, tiring disease in the best of cases, let alone in one holding such a responsible and stressful job as the leader of a country.

    Phyrric victory got a new synonim – Chavizmo victory. They won that election, but lost their leader and only competent person and all pretense of legitemacy and legality, plus destroyed the economy of their country in a single blow.

  7. >>> … take stock of where we are as of Wednesday, January 9th, 2013 –

    when a ray of light hits a prism, it turns into a dazzling array of colors. With the shriveling of our man in havana, we are left with a slew of chieftains, who, if left alone without a central authority, will gravitate to a new jefe, or to the natural implosion of our nation.
    Our daily bread is also in peril, as the mechanisms governing vzla’s wallet are clutched in the hands of one incapacitated body [dead or alive?]. So how do I get to buy that new tank toy that I want? how come I can’t buy my anti-motin gear that I need, why is my better half harping about the harina pan? how come I’m not getting mi carne mechada, or mortadela? etc… etc.. dire questions that daily confront each and every unconnected citizen.

    • humpti and dumpti are sitting on the wall, humpti is humping the nation, dumpti is dumpin’ on the nation … “la commedia è finita”

  8. Es muy triste ver como un pais se desmorona gracias a unos cuantos dirigente, que se quieren perpetuar, violando la misma Constitucion a la que ellos “Supuestamente” se habian mantenido apegado durante estos repetidos periodos de Gobiernos. Ya nos les conviene, porque no hacen cumplir los Articulos una vez mas? A que le tienen miedo? Que ocultan?

  9. Well put Franky Bull. A shitload of ideas pop into mind. One, wouldnt it be neat if one “reasonable” chavista goes public and denounces this constitutional abuse? What would Kiko or Godsent say? Or what if “militares” turn against “oficialistas” with a warning: “Hey kids. Play nice. Im watching you”? What would the gov’ment say? That’t be fun. Sad and pathetic but fun.


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