Chavez Given Enabling Law Power - by Stephen Lendman
On December 17, parliament gave Chavez enabling law power in response to torrential rains and severe floods that ravaged Venezuelan communities, killed at least 35, destroyed over 5,000 homes, and displaced about 120,000 or more people in 11 of the country's 23 states. He asked for one year. Parliament gave him 18 months to deal with the crisis.
National Assembly President Cilia Flores said it was needed to help "people who are relying" on him to help. "So that they can have their street, their highways, public services, electricity, everything to live in dignity, we are going to hear (their) proposals and concerns," then respond accordingly.
More on how it works below. Despite opposition and media criticism (in Venezuela and America), it's not about seizing dictatorial powers, nor has Chavez done it since taking office in February 1999.
No matter. On December 14, New York Times writer (and vocal Chavez critic) Simon Romero headlined, "Chavez Seeks Decree Powers," saying:
By so doing, he "opens a new phase of tension between (himself) and his critics." Provea director Mariano Alvarado said: "This measure reflects the contradictions of a government that speaks about the participation of the people in politics, but ends up adopting measures that ignore the will of the people."
On December 14, Wall Street Journal writer Dan Molinski headlined, "Venezuela Opposition Denounces Chavez Move," saying:
He's attacking democracy and "aim(ing) to demoralize an opposition" with more members when parliament reconvenes on January 5. Primero Justicia, a leading opposition group, said he's "perversely using the human tragedy from the rains to justify these sweeping powers."
On December 17, AP reporter Fabiola Sanchez headlined, "Venezuela congress grants Chavez decree powers," saying:
"Chavez opponents condemned the move as a power grab, saying the law gives him a blank check to rule without consulting lawmakers."
False, and they know it. Enabling law power includes well-defined checks and balances.
How It Works
Enabling law power is legal but limited. Chavez used it three previous times. Four earlier presidents used it. Venezuela's 1961 Constitution authorized it. So did the 1999 one under Article 203, stating:
"Organic laws are those designated as such by this Constitution, those enacted to organize public powers or developing constitutional rights, and those which serve as a normative framework for other laws," including amendments. A two-thirds legislative super-majority is needed before beginning debate. Measures are then sent to the Supreme Tribunal of Justice's Constitutional Division "for a ruling on the constitutionality of their organic status."
"Enabling laws are those enacted by a three fifths (National Assembly member) vote to establish guidelines, purposes and framework for matters that are being delegated to the President of the Republic, with the rank and force of law."
They're not dictatorial. They must conform to constitutional provisions and restraints. They may only be issued in National Assembly named areas within the time period allowed. In some cases, the Supreme Court must rule on their constitutionality.