It might have happened any of a dozen times in the last 16 months, but it did happen yesterday: suddenly, an event sharpened the minds of diplomats up and down the continent. For whatever reasons, the stage was set, the stars aligned, and the Western Hemisphere was ready to register this as a moment. A turning point. The straw that broke the camel’s back. 

What straw? An unprecedented move by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (TSJ) plainly usurping the legislative branch’s priorities. With stunning desparpajo, the Chamber declared it will exercise all parliamentary powers itself. They had the staggering cojones to argue, in the ruling, that they must do so “to ensure the rule of law.” 

Simply put: to avoid any possible hold-up from the National Assembly from now on —like, for example, reminding international banks and multilateral entities that any new debt in foreign currency (bonds, swaps, loans and credits) not approved by the National Assembly “is null and void”— the Constitutional Chamber good-as-dismantled the National Assembly by stripping it of all its powers. 

The Tribunal also said that under Maduro’s —legally dubious— State of Emergency,  the president can modify article 33 of the Framework Law on Hydrocarbons, which currently establishes that the National Assembly must approve the constitution of any new joint ventures for primary activities in the hydrocarbons sector as well as substantial changes to existing ventures.

Applying the kind of constitutional dibujo libre doctrine it’s gotten us all used to, the Supreme Court gave legislative powers to Maduro, even though the Constitution clearly says that only the National Assembly can do so through an Enabling Law.

You can search high and low through the constitution for an article that gives the Judicial branch the power to push the Legislative branch off the board. You’ll find nothing. This is the naked power grab of a docile court pointing up at a clear, blue Caribbean sky and declaring it orange. With pink polka dots. 

Though not many expressed it explicitly, chavismo probably felt it was a victory of sorts after receiving some blows at the OAS on Tuesday afternoon.

How did everyone react? Aside from a charming tweet from Diosdado Cabello, chavismo has remained mostly silent on the matter up to now.

Diosdado Cabello claims the opposition —or the plague, as he charmingly refers to us— is complaining, because the constitution and the Law of the Land imposed themselves. But opposition leaders were not simply complaining; they shouted in unison: esto es un Golpe de Estado.

On the opposition front, María Corina Machado was quick to remind everyone that she told us this would happen and called this a straight-up Coup.

That’s not a good look on anyone, mi pana. (Not that she’s wrong, of course.)

Many opposition leaders also tweeted about this coup à la Socialism of the 21st century, including Henry Ramos Allup, Henrique Capriles Radonski, Miguel Pizarro, Stalin González and David Smolansky. (Some UNT leaders have also taken care to remind us not to miss their re-validation process this weekend) 

Others in the opposition also tweeted about the need to take to the streets and protest, including Juan Requesens, Freddy Guevara, Gaby Arellano and Lilian Tintori.

But the most impressive image of the day belongs to AN Speaker Julio Borges, who at a press conference in the gardens of the Legislative Palace tore up the Constitutional Chamber’s ruling and added: “this is a piece of garbage from those who have kidnapped the Constitution, the rights and the freedom of the Venezuelan people”.

 

Los Ojos del Mundo

But it was on the international front that reactions were most pointed. The Secretary General of the OAS Luis Almagro denounced a “Self-inflicted Coup d’État” and called “for the urgent convocation of the Permanent Council.”

Many other international reactions were also heard loud and clear.

President of Chile Michelle Bachelet tweeted “The situation in Venezuela is very worrying. In Latin America, we must defend democratic coexistence in our societies”.

The President of Perú Pedro Pablo Kuczynski condemned the rupture of democracy in Venezuela and announced the permanent withdrawal of Peru’s Ambassador to Venezuela.

Through a tweet from national deputy Amelia Belisario we learned that Costa Rica’s parliament condemned the violation of the democratic regime in Venezuela and asked the Central Government to invoke the activation of the Democratic Charter and to withdraw the country’s Ambassador from Venezuela.

The US Department of State issued a press statement claiming that “the United States condemns the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s March 29 decision to usurp the powers of the democratically elected National Assembly… We consider it a serious setback for democracy in Venezuela”.

The governments of Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Panamá issued statements outlining their governments’ concerns about the latest actions of the Supreme Court and its impact on Venezuelan democracy, while reiterating the importance of the dialogue between the government and opposition.

After meeting with the Colombian Foreign Minister María Ángela Holguín, Mexico’s Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray also claimed: “Mexico is seriously concerned about the deterioration of the democratic order in a sister country like Venezuela”.

And all the way from the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, the European Union stated its concern and added: “it is therefore of utmost importance to establish a clear electoral calendar and to respect the National Assembly and all its members, as provided for in the Constitution”.


 

This is only the beginning of this new chapter of the Venezuelan institutional crisis. The entire diplomatic corps have been invited to the Supreme Court today to learn more about the infamous decision from the Constitutional Chamber, so many more reactions should ensue in the next few hours.

 

18 COMMENTS

  1. Vaya desde España mi solidaridad con los venezolanos y mi deseo de que esta situación se supere lo antes posible para que consigan el futuro que se merecen y les han robado descaradamente

  2. So Quico, are you now ready to consider the possibility of promoting civil disobedience as a way to bring this government down or do you still think you can outsmart them? I knew the time would come and I truly regret to having to say it, but here it goes: I told you so!

      • Comeflores didn’t murder over 100 million people in the past 100 years, enslave billions, destroy countless lives and wealth — hard leftists did. Toro and all left apologists/pimps have blood on their hands.

        • Right.

          And in V. this whole usurpation started with the TSJ declaring that a supermajority is based on the number of seats, not the number of members present. And the AN let that pass.

          What puzzles me is the immediate present furor, after it is undeniably clear that the horses have fled the barn. I’m not stupid, that I know of, but I’m no all-seeing genius by any stretch of anyone’s imagination (if anyone differs, I’ll be pleased). Yet I saw what was happening very clearly, at that TSJ declaration and annulment of four deputies.

          Can someone explain how men with much greater travel and political savvy and connections and information and inside sources and advisors and free lawyers and secretaries and all that did NOT see what I saw? Can someone explain why this has all been a slow-motion train wreck, with no one – save for the few valiant – putting a foot down and stopping it while the horses were still in the barn?

          Judging by the unopposed, measured and slow pace of this “Bolivarian Revolution”, I think Maduro et. al. are trying to BORE everyone to acquiescence. It’s so predictable, it’s almost beautiful … like seeing an automobile on a hill slip its brakes and begin to roll, first into some parked cars, then over the side of the cliff, falling down through the air to crash on the rocks at the bottom.

          • In sum to your answer, I think this was a process for the people of Venezuela to learn. Nadie escarmienta por cabeza ajena.Also in LA it s a current that is preset in every country. The hard leftism is very much alive in Peru where I live. I bet that once this venezuelan government passes, people will appreciate much more their individual freedoms.

          • Many saw it coming, to differing degrees and at different times, and did not react. Sadly, this lack of reaction characterizes the decent into mob rule. Venezuela is not at the time of her history for a revolution.

  3. One thing we can be sure of today is that the people of Venezuela are about to suffer like they’ve never suffered before. The game has changed.

    I’ve seen many state that in order to force elections and thereby bring down this government at the ballot box, the US needs to stop buying Venezuelan oil. While I agree that cutting off the dollars that the regime uses to stay in power is the answer, perhaps the only soution at this time, I don’t see a mere boycott by the US on Venezuelan oil as the answer. It’s a fungible product and could easily be sold to others, perhaps at a slightly discounted price to make it attractive enough to cover its increased refining costs.

    The only answer I see is a blockade. Venezuelan oil leaves the country via overseas transport. Shut that down and the country….the regime….grinds to a halt in a week or two. Heck, just the mere threat of a blockade might be enough to do the trick.

    • Marco, are you serious? You completely ignore the cocaine! The Achilles heel is starring you in the face. USA is not going to bother period

      Pura paja. You should know better

      • Well, I didn’t say the USA is going to do a blockade. I said it’s the only way out that I see. Money and power are what these guys live off of, take away their money and their power is gone almost immediately.

        Alernately, I guess we could try dialogue, or have granny and the kids march in the streets to Miraflores, but somehow I’m thinking that’s not going to work.

        Any suggestions on your part?

    • The left always pushes diplomacy and sanctions as the only legitimate international action. So where are they on an embargo? Where is the UN?
      …(Oh, there they are, on the left as usual.)

  4. Its ridiculous how there were 7 press conferences happening at the same time at each MUD party headquarters this morning. The opposition never learns. They should’ve done a rueda de prensa with ALL MUD diputados, in front of the National Assembly, addressing the millions of voters whose rights have been violated, and sent ONE message to all. It’s exasperating to watch the opposition fuck up every single opportunity they get to make a dent in Venezuelan politics.

  5. Stalin Gonzalez”???? How old is he?

    One presumes that his parents were idiotic leftists, but surely he is old enough to change his name.

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