What do you mean constituent?

Reactions to Maduro’s call for a Constituent Assembly include labeling it as unconstitutional or as a strategy to distract attention away from the mess Venezuelans is facing. Here's a look at some of the most relevant statements.

On April 23rd, during his weekly TV show, Maduro took a walk down memory lane and claimed that back in 1999, Chávez said it was “necessary to promote a proceso popular constituyente by electoral and peaceful means to refound the Republic through an asamblea popular constituyente“.

Maduro was clearly testing the waters and stated he was taking “the first step of a new historical trigger of the popular power for the new stage that I will call upon. I am totally determined to do it, but I need the people to be prepared like never before”.

A week later, on May 1st, Maduro finally came out and said: “with the people, with the working class, I convene the original constituent power of the people”. Two days later, on May 3rd, Maduro requested that the Electoral Power activate the ANC process.

This week seems to be the beginning of a hard ANC fight ahead and Maduro appears to have the upper hand.

The timing of the announcement unleashed a wave of reactions  from opposition leaders, lawyers and experts, all claiming that the move is yet another act of constitutional fraud by Maduro and an attempt to kill the constitution in an auto-coup d’état.

One of the reactions that got the most comments –even from Maduro– came from none other than Henry Ramos Allup, who tweeted “Sigue golpe Estado continuado. Lo que convocó Maduro no es una constituyente sino una prostituyente. ¿Por qué no hacen elecciones vencidas?

Nicmer Evans, a Chavista-but-not-Madurista and a member of Marea Socialista, thinks that “summoning an ANC in the context of a ruptured constitutional thread (words of the General Prosecutor), is an unconstitutional call”.

During later interviews, Evans added that the government’s main goal “is to distract the population from the fundamental problems arising from the economic crisis” and that Maduro gana tiempo a costa de todo”.

Eugenio Martínez –a Venezuelan journalist specializing in political and electoral matters– had some interesting things to say. He explained that by manipulating the bases comiciales and electoral system, an election for a ANC is the only one Chavismo can win while also avoiding municipal, regional and national elections in 2017 and 2018.

Despite his low popularity, Maduro said that the ANC “es para sacarnos el clavo de la derrota de 2015” because “we now have the opportunity with the Constituyente to return to the paths of the ‘popular Bolivarian Chavista victory’”.

On the red side of the political spectrum, Aristóbulo Istúriz claimed it’s not necessary to convene a consultative referendum on the ANC because “the one who takes the initiative [in this case, Maduro] sets the conditions”. Diosdado Cabello agreed: “The one who summons is the one who sets the rules. Señores de la derecha, don’t try to dictate the rules of the game!”

Hermán Escarrá –a well-known salta talanquera and current pro-government lawyer– first claimed that an ANC “must be approved first by referendum”, but now says “consultations are not necessary to convene” the ANC. Escarrá also said that the ANC “cannot dissolve the current National Assembly and should not do so.” Let’s see how long it’ll take to for him to change his mind.

Elías Jaua, president of the Presidential Commission for the ANC, contradicted himself by saying “la Constituyente is constitutional and is the ideal mechanism for resolving disputes in society“. Just to be clear, article 347 of the Constitution states that the ANC is meant to “transform the State, create a new legal order and to draft a new Constitution”.

MUD representatives were officially invited to meet with the Presidential Commision of the ANC on May 8th. That day, the Commission will apparently formally explain the motivation of Maduro’s ANC initiative.

This week seems to be the beginning of a hard ANC fight ahead and Maduro appears to have the upper hand.

Luis Emilio Rondón, the only independent Rector at the Electoral Authority, considered Maduro’s proposal for the activation of the ANC unconstitutional and demanded it be rejected. However, the other four pro-government Rectoras claimed it is constitutional and overruled him.

While the repression and violence continues, it will be another couple of days until we see what the next chapter in the ANC history will bring.