Exactly how violated is the 1999 constitution?


fVaA2The thoroughgoing collapse of law-based government in Venezuela has been a constant theme in this blog since 2002. But this week, in a time-wasting exercise of epic proportions, I decided to try to put a number to the timeless question: exactly how screwed is the 1999 librito azul?

In a quick first run-through, I can spot 161 articles out of 350 that have been very clearly, very publicly violated – which puts the gross unconstitutionality rate at a whopping 46%.

In fact, it’s worse than that, because quite a few articles in the constitution fall into the Pura Paja category: broad statements of principle or definition that aren’t really liable to being either violated or respected. Articles like  202, (La ley es el acto sancionado por la Asamblea Nacional como cuerpo legislador. Las leyes que reúnan sistemáticamente las normas relativas a determinada materia se podrán denominar códigos) don’t strike me as containing the type of norm you can break.

So the net unconstitutionality rate is probably even higher – especially as there are a number of articles where I just don’t have the information to make the call one way or another.

In any case, it’s an ongoing project, and probably the sort of thing you can well crowdsource. So, if you want to poke around at it, have a look here. It’s an open-document, so anybody can edit it, Wikipedia-style.


  1. Great job putting all these on paper. Although there are more than a few that are Discutible… But anyways, right on. It’s in plain sight for any body that wants to simply look and count….

      • For the longest time I was asking myself if we were ever going to see anything like this, be it in this blog or anywhere else. I commend your efforts and I hope people will support the doc with reports and facts. Kudos!

  2. I went through it looking for the ones that have been clearly violated and chavistas are proud of violating, like how the army is supposed to be a indepent entity that answers only to the venezuelan state and not a single party or person, the separation of powers, and using public funds to run an electoral campaign. You have all the important ones pinned down, I would like to see it (Once its finished, maybe with clear examples of how the articles were violated) In a organized document, its something I would print to have it among my university papers.

  3. Unfortunately anecdotal but a Cuban told a relative of mine he could in our presidential elections in April. He arrived to Venezuela less than 3 years ago and had no Venezuelan parents. Fast-track nationalization seems to be way too frequent these days.

    Does anyone know of some reliable source about the fast track (actually, illegal) nationalization for FARC members or other Chavista buddies?

    • Also anecdotally, but a family friend went to Barquisimeto last year in March and went to renew her cedula. In her words:

      “Eso era puro chino en una cola inmensa, yo era la unica persona Venezolana ese dia ahi”

      • Yes,…yes. If one looks closely at the election results in April it appears that nearly 85% of the residents of Kowloon and Shenyang voted for Maduro….

  4. Definitely needs the evidences, the “Pura Paja” are interesting, I guess that those are things that from a legal standpoint make no sense.

  5. Fast track naturalisations and all the rest are evidence that Venezuela is not a country, it is an entity being raped, pillaged and mortaged (3x over) by a kleptocracy assisted by foreign governments/agents.

    • If someone can explain what “…en la doctrina de Simon Bolivar, el Libertador” means under article one, that would be much appreciated.

      As I undertsand it, to the extent that SImon Bolivar spawned a legal “doctrine”, it was to not obey the laws applicable to him at the time (i.e. colonial law). In which case, nothing has changed, and this all makes perfect sense!

  6. 76 could be violated by a policy forced sterilization (as happened, for example, in Perú under Fujimori), so I don’t see why you would classify it as “pura paja”.

    Neither is “straw” an article which outlines a procedure, a responsibility or a term of office. Eg., that cabinet ministers are named by the president — and not, for example, by a vote in the assembly or by a monarch, to name a couple of other possible models — is precisely the sort of thing one would expect to see in a constitution (243). Similarly, the attributions of the TSJ (266), and the term of office of the Fiscal General (284), and various others. Perhaps I’m not understanding your terminology.

          • Ah entiendo. Mi concepto de pura paja es “artículo puramente definitorio que difícilmente puede ser violado.” Por ejemplo “Articulo 351: El cielo es la cosa azul que uno tiene por encima del cogote.” – no hay nada que el gobierno pueda hacer para “violar” un artículo como ese. Ciertamente, es muy probable que yo esté aplicando ese estandar mal en el primer análisis apresurado que hice, con lo cual, plis correct me!

  7. Some of the articles in the ‘Pura Paja’ category are actually very important from a legal (but also political) viewpoint: they establish the structural bases of the state’s organisation and powers. And what, really, is the state if not (at least reductively) the organised exercise of power? Art 202 of the Constitution cited in the text clarifies that ‘laws’ are only those adopted by the legislative power. An argument could certainly be made that the broad delegation of legislative powers from the AN to the Executive, and the Executive’s adoption of legislation (even 40 laws at a time), is a breach of this provision or, at least, a mockery of it!
    [BTW: I’ve added a remark on the clarification on the use of the terms ‘people’ in connection with indigenous peoples]

    • I agree that the Executive decrees violate Art. 202. Broad delegation of legislative power to any body other than the AN violates the Constitution. Ask yourself: could Maduro delegate his powers to the Army Estado Mayor, or would that be unconstitutional?

  8. I’m trying to write this comment without falling into a bit of a slippery slope, but the idea is still a bit fuzzy in my head:

    Is it possible to make a difference between the articles that have been “violados” and those that have been “no cumplidos”. For instance, right to free press has definitely been violado by direct action from the authoritarian government, but let’s say education is “no cumplido” because universal quality education is not true (but I mean, only a handful of countries can say they fulfilled that right, even with democratic governments), same thing with healthcare. Of course the definition is not clear cut, the actions of the gov’t towards private enterprise have led to drug shortages for instance, affecting the right to healthcare, but it’s not like health-care has been directly outlawed ore something

  9. magnificent issues altogether, you just gained a brand new reader. What might you recommend about your submit that you just made some days ago? Any positive?

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