Last night, Tarek el Aissami, ex-Minister of Justice and current Governor of Aragua, was in charge of reading part of the State of Emergency Decree which will rule over five municipalities of the Western Venezuela border state of Táchira.

The decree which, according to El Aissami, reflects “the supreme importance that Central Government places on Human Rights,” includes the following restrictions:

  • Suspension of gun permits.
  • Police can raid homes and businesses without judicial warrants.
  • Public protests will require a permit that must be issued 15 days in advance.
  • Discretional handbag and luggage inspections.
  • Limits on the amounts of cash that people can carry, and on financial transactions that may be performed within those territories.

(There is a good summary of constitutional guarantees that will be suspended at Efecto Cocuyo).

There is no confirmation that this State of Emergency Decree has entered into force yet (as it hasn’t been published in the Official Gazette). But there have been reports of raids by the military and the police to homes, and even a couple of brothels. Seriously.

Let´s try to answer some questions:

What triggered the decree?

Two days ago the border between Colombia and Venezuela (in Táchira) was closed by order of President Nicolás Maduro. According to the President, three military officers were shot and wounded by paramilitary/bachaquero forces. He also pointed out that Colombia had been sending drug dealers, gangsters, and poor people, to Venezuela ‪#‎Trumping‬.

Is that what REALLY happened?

There is no confirmation, of course, that any paramilitary/bachaqueros were involved in the shooting. In fact, ex-El Universal journalist, Thabata Molina, explained that the police (CICPC) report stated the following: Five men were riding in an SUV on “official” business. They were cut off by a motorbike with two men. The passenger drew a gun, and wounded four of the five men. Three of the wounded were military officers. The police have no information on the whereabouts of the two men on the motorbike.

What did the Colombians say?

Not much. President Santos, however, wasn’t thrilled. He said that the measure (closing the border) was unjustified and would not be a solution to smuggling and violence. That this would only hurt the common folk at the border, and that they (Colombia and Venezuela) should work together.

What would Chávez say?

Chávez once said that the suspension of constitutional guarantees was a thing of past governments. But then again, he said many things, and stood by only a handful of them.

Is the decree legal?

José Ignacio Hernández explains at Prodavinci that —even when some of the legal forms employed seem in place— there may not be an event that is critical enough to justify the State of Emergency. In a press release, the opposition coalition Mesa de Unidad (MUD) condemned this decree as dangerous and disproportionate, likening it to a rehearsal for calling off elections in December.

What will be the duration of the State of Emergency?

Originally it was set for 60 days, but Maduro later hinted at extending it to 60 more, so we could be looking at a total of 120 days.

Why did the Governor of Aragua read the decree instead of the President or the Governor of Táchira?

No one bloody knows.

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