Maduro’s Through Saluting this Stinkin’ Flag!

For years, Venezuelan budgets have been a "saludo a la bandera" - a purely pro-forma affair. Now Nicolás Maduro tells us he can't be bothered to do even that.


For years, Venezuela’s national budget has been nothing more than a saludo a la bandera — a mindless formality with no real relationship to the way the state raises or spends money. As anyone who follows these issues understands, the the real action is in the off-budget funds, PDVSA’s social budget, the “additional credits”, the State-owned enterprises, the regional governments: a whole grab-bag of no-audit/no-oversight spending black holes that are the hallmark of Bolivarian fiscal management.

Now that the majority of Parliament is in the hands of the opposition, Maduro’s putting us on notice: his budget-submitting days are behind him.

So getting too worked up about the budget is probably malversar your arrechera. That said, in 1999-2015, the president has nonetheless dutifully presented a stack of documents labeled National Budget to the National Assembly year after year. Article 313 of the Constitution says he has to, and, with the majority of Parliament in the hands of chavismo it was all a matter of la señal de costumbre.

Now that the majority of Parliament is in the hands of the opposition, Maduro’s putting us on notice: his budget-submitting days are behind him. He’s through salutin’ that flag. 

In Cadena de Radio y Televisión today, Maduro let us know the rules are about to change: “I am going to sign a letter to our legal consultant Elvis Amoroso right now to consult the Supreme Court in order to maintain the constitutionality and legality of the country, as the National Assembly has held the court’s rulings in contempt ( …) and I need the 2017 budget to be approved making sure nothing is stopped… I need the Supreme Court to tell me what to do about the national budget”.

“I have in my powers the Economic Emergency Decree,” Maduro added, “and can declare its [national budget] approval by way of decree… but I need an opinion and a firm, clear, constitutional, legal decision of the highest level to avoid any mistakes”.

Look, Venezuelan budgets have never been a reliable guide to how the government plans to raise and spend money the following year.

In other words, Maduro is asking the Supreme Court’s good graces to skip GO! and keep collecting -or creating?- monopoly money to spend as he wishes. And the TSJ being the TSJ, its eventual ruling is in about as much doubt as whether with this next scheme the coyote will finally catch the roadrunner. (Spoiler alert: bájate de esa nube.)

Look, Venezuelan budgets have never been a reliable guide to how the government plans to raise and spend money the following year. We know that. (And about the marco plurianual del presupuesto — remember that?! — the less we say the better.) Still, though, you flip through the little blue book in vain looking for that one article so aggressively clear that even this TSJ can’t rule it says the opposite of what it says. Today, we found out 313 ain’t it…

Public Spending surpassed the budget by 108% in 2014 and by 192% in 2015, thanks to créditos adicionales, a constitutional get-out clause that has been wrongfully used to make the budget into little more than an advisory document. In 2016, knowing the opposition majority of the National Assembly would probably block most of the requested créditos adicionales, Maduro allocated additional resources through the three Economic Emergency Decrees approved so far and between January and September 2016 exceeded the national budget by more than 100%.

Even though Maduro and his team have always spent our money at will, they keep on trying to make it look legitimate and constitutional. Honestly, it’s hard to tell why. Who exactly is this mythical public out there that would be outraged if Maduro just published a budget by decree but whose concerns would be met if the TSJ says publishing a budget by decree is a-ok? Do those people actually exist? Where?! Maybe in Narnia.

In any case, realizing that the budget would go through a tough review by the opposition majority of the National Assembly, Maduro decided to just skip the hassle and leverage the Supreme Court to sidestep the whole troublesome affair.

The national budget should be the nation’s central financial planning tool. Instead, it’s a joke: a fig-leaf draped haphazardly over an increasingly arbitrary public sector spending framework. Maduro doesn’t want a budget, he wants a cuaderno de pulpero. And without any type of budgetary constraint, inflation will just keep on soaring to infinity and beyond.


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  1. Chavez always sought absolute , unchecked , untramelled Power ……his succesors are no different , its part of their living agenda ………in the past they tolerated a weak or protocolar form of outside control for appearances sake , but they were never comfortable with it …… they cant even afford that because the control is going to be exercised for real this time as since they the annointed gods of the revolution they cannot suffer any challenge to their proud omnipotence , it would be demeaning …..megalomania dictates that they be absolutely sovereign in the exercise of their authorily …….they ve turned the constitution into a rag of toilet paper ………their fraudulent control of a rubber stamp supreme tribunal will submisively provide their uncostitutional acts with a veneer of faux legality ……..!! They are now so desperate that they must fore go even the appearance of obeying a rule of law……..which they have effectively destroyed in Venezuela , perhaps without intending to they ve made Almagros case that Venezuela is no longer a democracy something obvious and uncontestable ……!!

  2. Yet another line crossed into an absolutist personal dictatorship. Note that he isn’t allowing the National Assembly to participate in this “lawsuit”, to make legal argument or submissions.

    No, it’s just the President and the court, co-operating to undermine the election results and the Constitution with one more amoral stratagem.

  3. Seeking judicial approval is not gratuitious, it is a necessary attempt to allay world opinion that Maduro is following the constitution.

      • According to a recent scholarly study of the early Soviet legal system: “In 1923 Krylenko [People’s Commissar of Justice] said, very expressively: ‘A club is a primitive weapon,
        a rifle is a more efficient one, the most efficient is the court.’

  4. The Colombian bus driver is already addicted to Power. And scared of leaving. Same as Diablodado and numerous Chavistoide narco-criminals, same as the corrupt military and despicable TSJ.

    Can’t wait till the Presidential elections in 2019. See what they come up with. Because until the people hit the streets, the Chavista Cupula, not just Maduro, but hundreds of crooks, plus the military, won’t go peacefully. Leopoldo was right, except a bit premature. Now Venezuela will have to endure more years of misery.

    • No…! Waiting for, …what? The people of Venezuela do not have to “endure” more years of this insanity. The legitimate leaders of all South American countries must denounce this dictatorship, …now. The US government, the legislature and executive branches, must denounce it. All Europeans should be indignant as to what is taking place. Are there no real leaders left over there, in Europe? Brussels? Berlin? Paris? Madrid? This is a bonafide dictatorship, and should be labelled as such. Where is the outrage? Where is the Pope? Will Pope Frances bury his head like Pope Pius XII did during the Second World War? Where are all of those lefty Hollywood actors and/or celebrities who made it a point travelling down to Caracas to get their photo taken with Hugo? Where are they now? ..Penn, Glover, Stone, Moore, Weisbrot, or Eva Golinger. Why the silence? Can’t you see? People are dying, people are suffering. Your comments to all of this, …please. There should be outrage from all the world capitals. If that were all to happen next week, there would no longer be any waiting.

      • Dream on.. what are people like Macri gonna DO about Venecuba? What’s Hilary gonna do, or the EU? Or the laughable UN and useless OEA? Nothing. Say a few words once in a while.. Intervencionismo! Delcy will cry.. Venezuelan’s will have to get rid of their own pest. Heck, more than half of them still adore and venerate Chavez..

    • Venezuela is and has been a democratically elected “Dictatorship” for many years. Do you really think that there will be a real 2019 presidential election? Unless world leaders can find a way to pressure Maduro or MUD can pull a magic rabbit out of it’s hat this is very likely to continue for many years.

      It is like death by a 1000 small cuts. Individual cuts are not enough to kill you but the total of all of the small cuts will do the job. Maduro and company will just keep slicing away freedom and choice a little at a time until nothing is left. It would not be much effort to project that their next steps will include the arrest of Henry Ramos Allup and the shut down of the the National Assembly.

      It is a game plan that has been used by many other dictator’s of the past in other countries.

    • As Anabella says in her as-usual well-written/thoughtful essay, the problem continues to be, “Who (Where) exactly is this mythical public out there who would (should) be outraged…? Venezuela already is Venecuba, is well on its way to Cuba II, and there is very little expression of public outrage–death by a thousand cuts, indeed!

  5. “Now that the majority of Parliament is in the hands of the opposition, Maduro’s putting us on notice: his budget-submitting days are behind him. He’s through salutin’ that flag.”

    According to this Bloomberg article, see below, bond traders are ALSO discounting the power and initiative of the AN. They’re NOT salutin the flag either. Henry Ramos Allup had better come-up with a new game plan, but quick. Perception of power is everything here.

  6. Democracy is just an inconvenience that communists must cooperate with until they have enough political power to destroy it. Leave office because of the popular vote or will of the people? No way, Jose!


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