The new National Assembly takes office on January 4th. Here are a few headlines:
National Assembly members were summoned to four extraordinary sessions on December 22 and 23 for this purpose; usually, Congress ends its last session of the year on December 15, but the current ruling party majority decided to delay its recess after the opposition’s recent victory in the parliamentary elections.
On December 22, the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber issued a ruling stating that all extraordinary sessions in the National Assembly have legal validity. This means that any decision that outgoing congressmen approve will be legitimate.
By appointing 21 new Supreme Court magistrates, Chavista congressmen would be able to avoid investigations against members of congress and government officials being prosecuted in foreign courts. The measure also hinders the discharge or impeachment of the president, ministers, members of the armed forces and other high-ranking functionaries.
Jackson Diehl predicts a very likely outcome: Strongmen strike back in Burma and Venezuela
In Caracas, opposition leaders also appeared ready to negotiate. But Maduro and his most powerful deputy, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello, embraced a radical, and highly risky, strategy of confrontation.
Since the Dec. 6 vote, Cabello has convoked a new, unelected “communal Congress” and installed it in the parliament building. Maduro has hinted that the outgoing N ational A ssembly, which remains in office until Jan. 5, may transfer its powers to the new “Congress.” Meanwhile, the ruling party rushed last week to appoint 13 new members to the supreme court, which was already under government control.
All these steps were flagrantly unconstitutional. But the most ominous measure floated by the Chavistas goes still further: a court action to overturn the election of 22 opposition deputies. Last Tuesday, opposition leaders called a news conference to announce the government was going through with what would amount to a nuclear option. Hours later, the supreme courtmysteriously responded that it had received no such petition.
Venezuelan analysts believe the episode may have been a sign of a divide in the regime. The intransigence of Maduro and Cabello is likely encouraged by the regime’s hard-line Cuban advise rs, but it is also rooted in corruption. Cabello is reportedly a prime target of a U.S. federal drug trafficking investigation, while two of Maduro’s nephews are already being held in New York on trafficking charges. With U.S. prosecutors involved, the Chavistas, unlike Burma’s generals, cannot negotiate a pass.
On the other hand, the Venezuelan military, including Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino López, has no interest in tactics that may drive Venezuelans into the streets and leave the a rmy with the job of putting down a “people power” rebellion. That would be the likely result of reversing the election results. So it could be that Venezuela’s victorious opposition, like Burma’s, will end up negotiating with the generals.
TheWaPo editorial board looks at The anti-democratic maneuvers of Venezuela’s leaders
At the blogs:
The priorities ahead
In a report Monday, the group, the Venezuelan Violence Observatory, estimated that 27,875 killings occurred this year, pushing the homicide rate up to 90 per 100,000 residents; last year, its count was 82 per 100,000.
— Prof. Steve Hanke (@steve_hanke) December 28, 2015