Guaidó's Legal Framework for Transition in Venezuela

Yesterday, the National Assembly approved the Law of the Statute of Democratic Transition. Very briefly, this is what you need to know.

Photo: VOA Noticias, retrieved.

The Law of the Statute of Democratic Transition begins with a preliminary explanation of its general goals: putting an end to Maduro’s regime; forming a provisional government of national unity in the absence of an elected head of state; bringing the Armed Forces into the transition; renewing public powers; attending the humanitarian and economic crises; securing the country’s assets; ratifying international treaties and; holding free, transparent elections.

Some of these processes have already begun, while others require a regime change.

End of the usurpation

After the sham elections of May, 2018, and his invalid proclamation on January 10, Nicolás Maduro is currently usurping the authority of the Executivethis means that any citizen obeying him could be liable as well. The statute provides a framework to offer amnesty to civilian and military authorities that contribute with the restitution of constitutional order in the country, and also to prosecute those involved in human rights violations and corruption. The assets recovered by the National Assembly (AN) will remain frozen as long as Maduro’s regime is in power; the mechanism to recover them is yet to be specified.

Transition government

…If this is impossible, the AN will ratify the caretaker President as provisional President, until a new head of state is elected for the remainder of the 2019-2025 period.

As the only legitimately elected body in the country, the National Assembly will oversee and control the transition process. The AN will have authority to renew all branches of government, including the appointment of a new National Electoral Council board of directors, to hold new elections as quickly as possible. Regarding the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the statute establishes the legitimacy of justices appointed by the AN on July 21, 2017 (the so-called TSJ in exile), while all other justices appointed by the chavista-held AN, in 2015, will be replaced.

The terms of all authorities appointed by the current AN will end with the legislative term, on January 4, 2021, after which the AN that will be elected in 2020 will either ratify them or appoint new ones, to then serve for a full constitutional term.

Parliament will also ratify international agreements and request international assistance, not only to revert the humanitarian emergency and solve the economic crisis, but also to recover and protect territorial sovereignty (this is in such broad terms that it might allow a foreign military intervention). Additionally, the caretaker President, with authorization from the National Assembly, will appoint a new ad-hoc administrative board for PDVSA, which would then appoint new boards for PDV Holding, Inc. and affiliate companies like CITGO.

Free elections

The caretaker President will exercise executive powers under parliamentary control and, “once the usurpation ends,” he will retain his post for a period of 30 continuous days, after which new elections must be held (if this is impossible, the AN will ratify the caretaker President as provisional President, until a new head of state is elected for the remainder of the 2019-2025 period).

So, in sum…

The Law of the Statute of Democratic Transition is a fairly comprehensive document, and the mere fact that it exists is an accomplishment for the democratic cause. We must study it in depth and make sure that our legitimate representatives stay true to their word, guaranteeing that this much-awaited and costly process to reclaim our country comes to fruition.