In Venezuela, Maduro’s government dissolved the Parliament
At midnight on Tuesday 29 March, Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice (SCJ), announced that it had dissolved the National Assembly, the Venezuelan Congress, and that it would exercise all parliamentary functions, in apparent violation of Article 1 of the Constitution.
- Saturday, 01 April 2017
The SCJ is controlled politically by the executive, the government of Nicolas Maduro, a career military, like the founder of "Bolivarian socialism" Hugo Chávez. Maduro lost control of the Congress in December after a landslide election victory of the opposition. After that, in an effort to preserve its power and that of the military and chavista establishment at any cost, he ignored all Congress resolutions and had government-controlled Electoral Commission ax a referendum that would have deposed him.
Since Wednesday, MPs no longer enjoy immunity; Maduro, whose support plummeted to 18-20, granted himself unlimited powers; and the state of emergency in force since January 2016 was extended.
A champion of "alternative facts", the government continues to speak of the need to fight "the internal enemy” and prevent "foreign intervention."
The end of the division of powers was condemned by the EU, the UN, Canada, the US and most vocally by the Secretary Gen. of the Organization of American States (OAS), Uruguayan Luis Almagro, who spoke of a decision “taken by an authoritarian regime to clear any semblance of democracy".
It is a coup, no more and no less, according to a majority of Latin American countries, the opposition, the nation’s independent press and the foreign press.
Maduro felt cornered by a Congress resolution last week calling for OAS to apply to Venezuela the OAS Charter, a sort of Constitution of the American nations that commits member states to observe democracy — gained, as is well known, over decades with a heavy toll in human lives.
Almagro, who stated that “remaining silent before a dictatorship is the lowest indecency in politics", produced mid-March a very critic document calling for an "immediate debarment" of Venezuela from the organization should the government fail to call for elections within a month, free political prisoners and replace corrupt authorities in the National Electoral Council and the SCJ (the SCJ is chaired by Maikel Moreno, a convicted murder and suspect murder of a woman).
The crisis in Venezuela morphed indeed in a Latin American political crisis. According to imprisoned opposition leader Leopoldo López, the main battleground must extend to the international community. Peru, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Guatemala, Paraguay, Uruguay, Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia and Mexico all condemned to a greater or lesser extent the events, some recalling their ambassador permanently.
The countries that get Venezuelan oil at very low prices, that is Nicaragua, Bolivia, Antigua y Barbuda, El Salvador, San Vicente and Granadine, however, didn’t support yet the OAS resolution as a consequence of Maduro’s lobbying efforts. Pressure from the US mounted, on the other hand, on the Dominican Republic, El Salvador and Haiti: Washington will cut aid should they not vote for the restoration of democracy in Venezuela.
The government may want to take advantage of the coup, or “self-coup” as many observers put it, to divert attention from shortages, the highest inflation in the world and record crime and corruption. Maduro may have not down his homework here, because, for instance, to obtain a desperately needed $500 million loan from the Andean Stimulus Corporation, he will need the Congress to act as guarantor. Russia and China set limits to credit to Venezuela even at loan sharks rates.
The Chavista establishment is already experiencing a boomerang effect from the coup. First, internationally, it revealed Maduro’s hanker for authoritarian power, and adds him to Latin America's hall of fame of strong and petty dictators.
Domestically, is showing to be too much even for some government loyalists. In the last hours, some ministers, top rank military and regime journalists spoke against the SCJ decision. The highest personality opposing it most is Luisa Ortega Díaz, the Minister of Justice and a diehard Chavista, because it contains "several violations of the constitutional order."
Also Maduro’s request that the commander in chief and Defense Minister, Vladimir Padrino López, has the top military ranks confirm their support for Maduro is another hint of the cracks in the government’s inner circle.
Maduro knows he could never win an election, and that as soon as defeated many of his men and himself will likely end up in prison for human rights violations, corruption and drug trafficking among other crimes.
However, even if the latest events were "the last breath of the dying man," as many commentators put it, the threat to the personal security of MPs, the opposition, protesters, students, the women who took to the streets beating on pots and journalists is high. In the last couple days many journalists were targets of the police. Among them is Elyangélica González of Radio Caracol, who was attacked by ten men of the Bolivarian Guard, a video shows, pushed to the ground and booted.
At the border with Colombia the tanks are on the streets. The risk is that in the upcoming protests, like the one called for on Saturday, April 1, repression against the protesters becomes even tougher, adding to the list of hundreds of political prisoners.
Against this atmosphere, the gap between reality and the government’s proposals to, for example, alleviate hunger due to shortages appears surreal. A few days ago, a senior died of a heart attack after standing for four hours in line to buy flour. In order not to go back home with empty hands, the other people held their position in the line near the body for nearly an hour.
Maduro did not say yet "If they have no bread, let them eat cake," but he suggested – seriously — people keep in their apartments "vertical chicken coops for three hens” possibly together with a fish tank. No one in Venezuela would say no to a few eggs a week and maybe a little fish once a month. Too bad there is also a shortage for chicken feed.