Photo: The Daily Beast retrieved.
The concept of a Constitution in the modern world isn’t univocal. Certainly, a Constitution is a judicial regulation; in fact, lawyers recognize it as the higher norm of each country’s legal order. But the Constitution is also a “social pact” on which society writes down certain principles and fundamental rules that it wants to set aside from political discussion: the Constitution is, thus, a sort of fundamental rule for the social game.
The process by which the National Constituent Assembly of 1999 was called and elected was criticized back then, because it was seen in violation of the 1961 Constitution. It meant that the recently elected President Chávez would unilaterally impose the rules of the game. The Constituyente had been Chávez’s main political offer for his 1998 candidacy.
The process for calling and electing the National Constituent Assembly in 2017 was also criticized as fraudulent and unconstitutional. In truth, the ANC of 2017 was the political response of Maduro’s government to the political crisis caused by the protests that year.
Since then, the ANC has been a political instrument to solve the regime’s problems. It removed Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had become a liability, it has carried out actions to support Maduro and it has dictated laws to regulate the economy.
But up until a few weeks ago, the ANC hadn’t done anything particularly relevant for the process of writing a Constitution to replace the one established in 1999. Hermann Escarrá, head of the “Constitutional Committee,” has announced some progress about the new text’s content… and it’s chavista through and through.
The ANC has been a political instrument to solve the regime’s problems. It removed Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz, who had become a liability, it has carried out actions to support Maduro and it has dictated laws to regulate the economy.
For example, when talking about the crime of “Treason,” he says that “We seek to be more severe on this matter, especially when people request a military intervention and come to agreements with foreign military sectors that antagonize Venezuela.” Efecto Cocuyo reported on other topics being discussed, and some media outlets shared an alleged draft of the Constitution; it would be a mixture of the ‘99 Constitution, with aspects of the constitutional reform project rejected by the electorate in 2007, with seasoning from the Laws of People’s Power of 2010, which solve some of the government’s recent political problems, such as the capacity granted to the president to call for an ANC himself without consulting the people, precisely like Maduro unconstitutionally did last year. Escarrá himself denied that the document is official (so, it does exist), saying “It’s not official. It hasn’t reached the Presidential Committee.”
We know little about the writing process, beyond the fact that it’s composed by an instance called and elected in violation of the current Constitution and without informing society.
It might sound paradoxical or cynical, but Cuba is also writing a new Constitution. We know when the process started (August 13) and when it’s going to end (November 15), but it’s hard to predict what the content of the text will be. However, Cuban citizens, living in Cuba or abroad, are allowed to express their opinion, even if it’s going to be ignored. The Venezuelan regime isn’t even allowing us that.
We’re going towards a new Constitution, but the process is characterized by chavismo’s opacity and hegemony, in a socialism where the voice of the people is the voice of God… but only when it’s convenient.