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  HOME | Opinion (Click here for more)

VenEconomy: The Most Equal of All Armor-Plates His Dictatorship in Venezuela

From the Editors of VenEconomy

It is more than well known that Hugo Chávez has the five branches of government in his iron fist. Paraphrasing George Orwell, it could be said that the Executive has become the most equal of all the branches of government in Venezuela.

The cherry on the cake is that now Chávez is once again asking for a Special Powers Law, the fourth in his ten years in office, in order to legislate as “his majesty” sees fit.

This request has caused considerable surprise, because why would he be asking for special powers to legislate when he already controls 152 out of the 167 seats in the National Assembly (91%)? And not only that, when, in practice, the National Assembly barely maintains the fiction of performing its legislative functions, as according to a large number of analysts, the majority of the laws are apparently being drafted by the Executive and sent to the National Assembly to be rubber stamped?

Chávez’s control of parliament, combined with a sentence handed down by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice that allows organic laws to now be passed with a simple majority, in contravention of the Constitution, makes it practically impossible for Chávez not to get any law he feels like passed, no matter how irrational or antidemocratic.

For that reason, one hardly credited one’s ears when the President requested yet another special powers law in order to legislate unilaterally and behind the backs of the people, particularly when what is at stake are issues of such moment as the electoral system, freedom of expression, private property, and labor relations, to mention just a few.

It is worth remembering that special powers laws were designed to allow presidents to legislate in the event of emergencies provoked by natural disasters or the threat of war. Halfway through the last century, this purpose was distorted and special presidential legislative powers were broadened to include financial and economic emergencies.

So it was that in three and a half decades (from 1951 to 1998), the extinct Congress of the Republic passed only six special powers laws, which were granted to five constitutional presidents. Chávez has distorted this practice still further and used special powers laws to legislate in a dictatorial manner to armor-plate his political project for Venezuela (read communism Cuban style).

With the three special powers laws granted him to date, Hugo Chávez has issued 81 decree-laws, among them the disastrous Lands Law that has destroyed agriculture and the domestic productive system. Not only that, by resorting to the last 26 decree-laws, rushed through on July 31, 2008, he imposed a large number of the proposals included in his constitutional reform, which had already been rejected by the people.

The mere fact that Chávez is asking for special powers yet again shows that the President fears and is, therefore, bent on avoiding any public discussion of laws that fly in the face of what people want, particularly right now, when, according to the majority of opinion polls, more than 80% of the population rejects his communist project, and also when there are still media that are more or less free, in particular, Globovisión, the only independent, free-signal television channel left in the country.

Given the level of parliamentary servitude, it is most likely that Chávez will get his fourth special powers law. With that under his belt, he will manage to put more power to his blitzkrieg, close the year legally armor-plated with his network of dictatorial laws, and be well set on the road to formally establishing his dictatorship in 2010.

VenEconomy has been a leading provider of consultancy on financial, political and economic data in Venezuela since 1982.

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