A day of extraordinary degradation at the National Assembly

Diosdado Cabello’s National Assembly seems determined to keep plumbing new depths.

Yesterday’s session, culminating in this extraordinary homophobic tirade against Henrique Capriles’s chief of staff at the Miranda governorship, Oscar López, explored whole new levels of humiliation for the republic. Having had police raid his offices, the best the government could come up with was a few camp photos of the guy in drag, with others showing men hugging other men while fully clothed. These photos were then exposed live on the floor of the National Assembly and billed as evidence of a male prostitution ring underlining the deep moral rot of Primero Justicia. We’re dealing with deeply disturbed people here.

It was a display stomach turning enough to bury news of the unceremonious dumping of the remarkably clueless Central Bank chairwoman, Edmeé Betancourt, who had just recently wowed us with her limitless ignorance of all things monetary. That decision was itself a smokescreen to divert some heat from the indictment of three Bandes officials in the U.S., following an FBI investigation into the huge web of corruption while Betancourt headed Bandes. In an arcane twist, Betancourt’s replacement, Eudomar (en serio!) Tovar, was himself at Bandes when the alleged crimes took place.

It was the kind of news day when even major stories that would normally be expected to hog the headlines for days on end got relegated to a small box on age A17. Lost among the hubbub, Maduro sought his very first Dictatorial Law – let’s not forget, for the Romans a “dictator” was an official accountable to no one legally empowered to legislate by decree – though in current Venezuelan usage it’s more circumspectly called an “Enabling Law.” Once more, we’re faced here with the practice of superfluous authoritarianism – it’s not as if the PSUV-dominated National Assembly that will gay-smear mid-level oppo operatives is ever actually going to debate or question, much less block, a government bill. But it’s a matter of principle, damnit: subjecting proposals to the scrutiny of others is below the dignity of the office of the president.

Touchingly, Maduro still felt the need to justify his demand for dictatorial powers by referencing the “corruption emergency” (not, you see, the one having to do with untrammelled kleptocracy at Edmee Betancourt’s Bandes but rather with the super-gaiety-gay-gayness of Primero Justicia). But of course we remember that last time Chávez asked for dictatorial powers specifically to help people displaced by the 2010 floods, and ended up using them to legislate on everything from price controls and the labour code to land tenancy and the Armed Forces law.

Exactly how much damage to the nation can a single legislative body do in one day? It’s as though the deputies were determined to answer that question yesterday, because in between the gay-baiting, the Central Bank leadership shuffling, and the legitimation of dictatorial powers, they managed to find time to destroy the used car market, as well.

And that’s not all! They still found time to cram in some new stealth taxes under a top heavy new Culture Law, send a happy birthday message to Fidel Castro, threaten to move after Henrique Capriles himself and capped it all off by ratifying a cooperation agreement with North Korea ferchrissake, too. (And then we say the A.N. is not productive!)

A remarkable, sad, painful day whose consequences will be felt for a long time to come.

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