As we digest the meaning and impact of the elections of D6 we should keep recording our impressions. These are my impressions ten days after the event, with the help of some excellent legal analysis by reputed Venezuelan lawyers:
1. December 6th Venezuelans took to the polls and converted a legislative election into a presidential plebiscite. It became an opposition landslide of great proportions. The night of the election Maduro and his group of civilian and military accomplices tried to distort the results but action by still unidentified members of the Armed Forces obliged them to accept the will of the people. The Defense Minister, presumably in the Maduro plot, was forced to become the spokesman of the institutional members of the military.
2. Politically, this vote represents the beginning of the end for the so-called Bolivarian revolution, meant to be a socialist, popular revolution but ending in almost complete national ruin. With a 2/3 majority in the National Assembly, the opposition now has the constitutional authority and the popular mandate to start dismantling the chaotic political structure erected by Chavez. Among other things the Assembly can revoke the designation of current top bureaucrats who were not legally selected. According to Allan Brewer Carías, a prestigious Venezuelan constitutionalist, they would include the current members of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, the members of the Moral Power and the members of the National Electoral Council, since all of them were named by a simple majority of the current Assembly, in violation of the Constitution.
Brewer Carias also lists other steps that the new Assembly can take:
3. The new National Assembly can reform or replace laws related to the Communal Councils to make sure that these communal organizations are subordinate to the municipal system and not parallel entities which threaten to replace the existing constitutional structures.
4. The new Assembly can and should make sure that there is effective separation of the Executive, Judicial, Moral and Legislative powers, a separation which had disappeared during these last 16 years.
5. The new Assembly will be able to dictate a Decree of Amnesty to secure the freedom of all political prisoners. President Maduro could disagree and send it back. The Assembly will send it again, this time approved.
6. The new Assembly will have the authority to exercise effective control over the national budget, over the doings of the ministers and state-owned agencies and companies. This control had essentially disappeared in the past 16 years. The Assembly in the hands of the government had renounced its legislative duties in favor of the Executive.
7. The New Assembly will have the authority to revise all international agreements, contracts and commitments, including the subsidized oil to Cuba, the loans from China. I would love to see Pastor Maldonado’s contract with LOTUS cancelled.
8. If, by any chance, the moribund National Assembly passed any law, the new Assembly can, after January 5, its installation date, modify or nullify such a law. According to the Constitution any law can be superseded by a new law according to the constitution.
9. The new Assembly can convoke all ministers for interpellation. If they are censored by the 2/3 majority they will be expelled from their jobs.
10. The president will not be able to travel out of the country for more than 5 days. This will give him time to get instructions from Raul Castro but not much more.
11. Any future loans to the government will have to be approved by the new Assembly
12. January 6-10 Maduro will have to present to the new Assembly his State of the Union. And the same will apply to his ministers. I would love to be there in first row.
13. The Venezuelan Central Bank will have to present its report to the new National Assembly. This will be entertaining.
14. The president of the Assembly sits in the National Defense Council, which has to render a full report. That should also be entertaining.
The new legislators have already presented to the public their proposed legislative Agenda, including emergency components, such as these:
· Guaranteeing immediate accessibility to food and medical supplies
· Reversing expropriations done by the government
· Eliminating State monopolies of public services, such as water, electricity, airports, telecommunications
· Promoting the financing of public works with the help of multilateral banking and private investment
· End the monopoly of the state in the media
· Promote private construction of low income housing
· Investigation on money laundering and repatriation of illegal capitals
· Investigations of all components of the public administration.
The short term Impact can be significant in the area of human rights and in reshaping the Venezuelan political landscape, both domestic and international.
In the field of human rights a legislative decree (rather than a Law) of General Amnesty is already in draft form.
International reactions: The Cuban government has congratulated President Maduro for his “acceptance” of the results. The Foreign Ministry of China has officially stated that they expect Venezuela “to maintain stability and growth”. Russia produced a declaration from the foreign ministry stating that the new legislative majority should be recognized and asked for the coordinated work of the executive and legislative powers. Secretary of State John Kerry expressed the wish of the U.S. for a constructive cooperation between the Presidency of the country and the new National Assembly. Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva said: “Maduro should accept that democracy means alternation”. In other words, as analyst E. Otálvora has noted, the international political actors who influence Venezuela the most have essentially abandoned Maduro.
The impact on the medium term can be significant in the political and economic sectors by placing Venezuela, again, within the civilized community of nations. A possible suspension of petroleum supplies to Cuba and Petro Caribe could be made sooner than later.
The long term impact is difficult to pinpoint but there is little doubt that Venezuela will progressively dismantle the set of policies instituted by the Chavista regime. Regardless of who is in power Venezuela might no longer be a prominent actor in the energy field, due to the nature of its hydrocarbon deposits and the results of the Paris Meeting on global warming. Venezuela might have to reinvent herself.
THERE ARE TWO MAIN DOMESTIC POLITICAL SCENARIOS IN THE IMMEDIATE FUTURE, in simplified form:
1. RECTIFICATION BY THE EXECUTIVE AND DIALOGUE WITH THE OPPOSITION
All that has been said by President Maduro, so far, points to a confrontation. The results of the elections, the mood of the nation are clearly against him. By choosing to fight he could be ousted. The Armed Forces have apparently decided they will enforce the will of the people.
Frankly, Venezuela is fed up with Maduro. And after, Maduro, what?