Thursday, February 01, 2007

And now for something completely different...Hugo's Rule by Decree

In this post I wanted to look at some recent news, commentary and blog posts covering the Hugo Chavez Rule by Decree that was recently approved.

1.Harry has a nice short piece:Second Time as Farce. In addition to showing pictures of Hugo as the great, they include these two important quotes:
Mr Chavez...announced he would nationalise key businesses, declared himself a Trotskyist and cited the ideas of Marx and Lenin.
He has also called on the National Assembly to give him the power to rule by decree (From: Chavez accelerates on path to socialismJan 10)

2.Harry has a video of the Daily Show at Authoritarian Regime + Oil = Begging Supplicants.

3.Telephones for the Classes – Socialism for the Masses is a good article about the development of CANTV which Hugo is planning to nationalize and links to a report (PDF) Nov 06 by Transparency International that rates Venezuela as among the most corrupt nations.

4.Superfluous Authoritarianism
Ruling by decree is what originally got Chávez in trouble back in 2001, when he first showed his disdain for pluralism by dictating 49 laws he'd discussed only with his pillow. That episode will likely seem mild, though, compared to the veritable orgy of rule by decree Venezuela is facing now that Chávez has asked the National Assembly to give him The Mother of All Enabling Laws.

An Enabling Laws is an authorization the National Assembly grants the president to legislate by decree for a fixed period of time. Time was when Enabling Laws could be used only as a last-resort, and only on financial matters. Under the old constitution, they allowed the president to move fast in situations where a long debate in congress risked deepening a financial crisis. Heading off a currency collapse, fighting a wave of bank failures, that sort of thing.

In came Chávez, and out went the safeguards. The 1999 Constitution removed the caveat that Enabling Laws could be used on financial matters only. Henceforth, the National Assembly could empower the president to go over its head on any matter, for any period of time. Sweet, sweet discretion.

Last week, Chávez asked the all-chavista National Assembly to give him the power, for 18 months, to dictate the following types of laws by decree:

1. Laws to accomplish the transformation of the institutions of the State.
2. Laws to establish mechanisms of popular participation.
3. Laws to establish the essential values that will guide public service.
4. Laws dealing with social and economic issues.
5. Laws dealing with financial and tax-related issues, including the Central Bank Law.
6. Laws dealing with the personal and judicial security of Venezuelans.
7. Laws dealing with science and technology issues.
8. Laws dealing with the way the country's territory is organized.
9. Laws dealing with the security and defense of the nation and the State.
10. Laws dealing with infrastructure, transportation and services....

The rest of the post is good also.

5. Venezuela in July 2005: a political portrait has a good break down of the Electoral System.

6. A sad day for Venezuelan democracy or what was left of it
When Hugo Chavez ran for President in 1998, one of his main proposals was that Venezuela required a "participatory" democracy instead of a representative democracy, in which decisions would somehow percolate down so that the Executive and legislative branches would have the input of the citizens and their opinion would be heard on all matters. This concept was in fact incorporated into the 2000 Bolivarian Constitution in many places and at the Quebec Summit in April 2001, Chavez refused to sign the final declaration of the Summit, because he did not believe in representative democracy, but only in a participatory democracy and the term was not included in the declaration.

After the events of the last two weeks, it should be very clear even to those with a limited understanding of what democracy is about, that Chavez does not believe in either of them. As the Venezuelan National Assembly approved today a first draft of the Enabling Law that will give Chavez absolute power to legislate for the next eighteen months, those "representatives" of the people not only relinquished their own power to legislate in favor of the autocrat, but they also precluded the exercise of that participatory democracy that Hugo Chavez claimed to believe in and which was clearly included in the 2000 Bolivarian Constitution.
But what is worse is the type of Enabling law that he will be granted. First of all, rather than being for a short and limited period of time, it will be for 18 months, a lifetime compared to the previous such Bills. Moreover, Enabling Bills granted on the past to incoming Presidents have been quite specific. Even the 2000 Bill was extreme in its details, as there was some semblance of democracy and not a docile National Assembly willing to comply with every wish and whim of the autocrat. You can find that Bill here and examine the exquisite level of detail of the mandate given Hugo Chavez at the time.

In contrast, the current Enabling Bill is simply grotesque, with no guidelines or mandate, almost all encompassing and allowing the President to completely change the social, economic and political structure and fiber of our country in any way he may desire over the next eighteen months. To wit, the Bill, as proposed, will "allow the President to legislate in ample and unlimited manner on":

-The transformation of the institutions of the State.
-Popular participation
-Public Functions
-Social and economic spheres
-Citizen safety and judicial security
-Science and Technology
-The National Health System
-Security and National Defense
-Infrastructure, transportation housing and services
-Telecommunications and information technology
-The penitentiary system
-Territorial organization
-Food supply security

As you can see, President Chavez has been given powers to legislate on essentially anything he wishes for in the next eighteen months, without any specifics and without control. This is certainly not in the spirit of any known Enabling Bill ever approved in history, anywhere, except those to given to Dictators at the peaks of their rule.

7. Winds of Change has a good post on: Do cry for Venezuela: the vulnerability of an easily amended Constitution

8. Publius Pundit has a couple of pieces: TO DICTATE BY DECREE and IN THE EYE OF THE STORM.

9. DICTATOR BY DECREE (PP) has a Spanish version of the decree order.

A.Chavez gets sweeping new powers
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been granted new special powers after an extraordinary assembly vote in the main square of the capital, Caracas.

Mr Chavez will now be able to rule by decree for the next 18 months.
In the open-air public ceremony in the capital, lawmakers voted unanimously to grant the Venezuelan leader the new powers, shouting: "Long live Socialism."
According to the so-called enabling law, the president can remake laws for "the construction of a new, sustainable economic and social model" to achieve an equal distribution of wealth.

Mr Chavez will be able to effect change by presidential decree in 11 broad areas.
He wants to scrap presidential term limits and rewrite the constitution to build what he calls "socialism for the 21st Century".

B.Gateway Pundit has a nice piece of trivia between Hitler and Hugo. Which links to: Chavez set to receive decree powers in Venezuela:
The move is part of a strategy to centralize power around Chavez, who is closely allied with communist Cuba. He has vowed to use his mandate to strip the central bank of its autonomy, eliminate presidential term limits and form a single party from the dozens of groups supporting him.
Aides predict he could implement up to 60 measures through decrees.
In 2001 he won similar temporary powers, which allowed him to issue decrees boosting state control over oil fields and increased presidential power to confiscate land deemed idle.

But the approval took months of political wrangling and became a lightning rod for many Venezuelans' anger that prompted large street protests.

C.SwissInfo:Chavez gets powers to rule by decree
The vote was applauded by hundreds of Chavez supporters in red T-shirts, carrying placards such as "With Chavez, the people rule" and "Venezuela towards socialism."

D.I saw several blogs mention:Chavez nationalization vow sparks assets sell-off but had not ran across it until today.
Currency traders said the local bolivar currency, officially pegged at 2,150 bolivars to the dollar, was now changing hands at more than 4,100 to the dollar.

E. The Oregon gains free rein in Venezuela

F. From Houston Chronicle: Chavez getting special energy powers
Chavez has said the private companies affected — British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA — would be given the option to stay on as minority partners in the eastern Orinoco region.

G. Venezuela's Chavez gets powers to rule by decree
The lawmakers, all loyal to Chavez after opposition parties boycotted the 2005 congressional elections, flaunted their populist credentials by taking the unusual step of holding their vote in public in a square in Caracas.

H. Hugo Chavez gets unprecedented powers in Venezuela
"If you have all the power, why do you need more power?" said Luis Gonzalez, a high school teacher who paused to watch in the plaza, calling it a "media show" intended to give legitimacy to a repugnant move. "We're headed toward a dictatorship, disguised as a democracy."
"What kind of a dictatorship is this?" Rodriguez asked the crowd, saying the law "only serves to sow democracy and peace."

"Dictatorship is what there used to be," Rodriguez said. "We want to impose the dictatorship of a true democracy."

Venezuelan lawmakers will continue to hold session and pass laws in other areas.
Chavez plans to reorganize regional territories and carry out reforms aimed at bringing "power to the people" through thousands of newly formed Communal Councils designed to give Venezuelans a say on spending an increasing flow of state money on projects in their neighborhoods, from public housing to potholes.


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