UPDATE: Venezuelan Opposition Accepts Supreme Court Ruling, Introduces Law Privatizing Housing Mission
Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly agreed Tuesday to recognize a Supreme Court (TSJ) ruling temporarily suspending four representatives from Amazonas state pending investigation into alleged electoral irregularities.
The decision was reached following a meeting between National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup and socialist parliamentarian and first combatant Cilia Flores, leading to the resignation of the three opposition legislators from Amazonas state sworn in last week in violation of the high court order.
Earlier in the week, the TSJ issued a second ruling declaring all actions by the parliament “absolutely null” so long as the suspended deputies remain seated.
Tuesday’s agreement nonetheless opens the door to a new dispute regarding the composition of the National Assembly.
With the unseating of the suspended deputies, National Assembly President Ramos Allup argues, “The chamber would reduce from 167 to 164 [members], the quorum gets smaller and we [the Democratic Unity Roundtable] maintain the two-thirds majority.”
Socialist congressman Pedro Carreño, on the other hand, has assured that the National Assembly must maintain its 167 seats and that it is impossible to reduce the number of representatives.
For his part, the opposition Governor of Amazonas State, Liborio Guarulla, introduced a document against the decision made by the Supreme Court, which he claims, “has practically eliminated a federal state that represents 20% of the country’s territory.”
The TSJ has, however, yet to issue any official statement regarding the future composition of the country’s chief legislature.
Opposition Introduces Law to Privatize Housing Mission
Deputy leader of the Democratic Unity Roundtable Julio Borges introduced a law which would hand over the property deeds of the over 1 million homes constructed by the Great Venezuelan Housing Mission (GMVV) to the residents, who currently retain a permanent lease that cannot be transferred or sold.
According to Borges, private ownership would generate jobs and assure a faster construction, ensuring the “democratization of property”.
“We believe in a Venezuela of property owners” added opposition lawmaker Delsa Solorzano.
Ricardo Molina, ex-minister for Housing and Habitat, declared that the proposed law “is founded on ignorance or manipulation,” given that articles 9 and 13 of the Law of Property allow the families, if they have the need or the wish, to sell their house.“That means the house is property of the family,” he explained.
The ex-minister further emphasized that the existing law prevents the houses build by the GMVV from entering into the speculative private market, which he claims is the actual aim of the opposition legislation to be debated next week.
As the flagship social initiative of socialist President Maduro and his predecessor Hugo Chávez, the GMVV has handed over one million houses to Venezuelan families since its founding in 2011.
The housing mission expanded an emergency shelter program implemented in 2010 to help those who lost their homes in devastating floods. The program has prioritized providing low-cost housing to poor families.
Venezuelan Supreme Court : “National Assembly is Void”
Venezuela’s Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) has ruled that the country’s National Assembly is void, after the legislative body violated a previous court order by swearing in three temporarily suspended legislators.
“Decisions taken or to be taken by the National Assembly while these citizens are incorporated will be absolutely null,” read a statement emitted by the court.
The three legislators in question were sworn in on January 6th – despite a Supreme Court order prohibiting them from taking up office pending investigation.
Elections were held on December 6th in Venezuela to elect 167 representatives – including three indigenous – to the country’s chief legislature.
The opposition coalition – the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) – won a two-thirds super majority, taking 112 seats in total for the first time in 19 years.
But its victory was temporarily hampered when the Supreme Court decided to temporarily bar all four elected legislators in Amazonas state – including a government affiliated GPP (Great patriotic Pole) representative – amidst reports of vote-buying.
The ruling temporarily removed the MUD two-third parliamentary super majority. The margin would have given the bloc significant powers in passing motions and legislation virtually unopposed.
Nonetheless, opposition lawmakers and the National Assembly president, Ramos Allup, took the decision to disregard the court – leading to a stalemate between two of country’s three principal public powers.
“The logical, sane and democratic step is for the National Assembly’s leadership to revoke the swearing-in of these lawmakers,” said deputy leader of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and former president of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, who described parliament as “in contempt”.
The court’s latest decision means that a number of decisions already taken by the assembly are null and void – including Allup’s unilateral decision to remove portraits of former Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez and national liberation hero Simon Bolivar from the congressional chambers.
Tuesday’s planned National Assembly session was also suspended pending further action.
Opposition legislators were expected to push for the passing of a controversial amnesty law, principally aimed at freeing jailed politician Leopoldo Lopez.
Venezuelan media reports that government legislators intended to present a motion declaring an “economic emergency” in light of the country’s worsening financial crisis.
Venezuela: New Evidence of Electoral Irregularities in Amazonas
The new evidence links the opposition governor of Amazonas with vote-buying.
Venezuelan lawmaker Hector Rodriguez presented Tuesday new evidence on the electoral crimes committed in the Amazonas state during the past Dec. 6 parliamentary elections.
Rodriguez, who is the national coordinator of the socialist PSUV party as well as an elected representative for Bolivar state in the National Assembly, presented an audio recording in which the right-wing governor of Amazonas state, Liborio Guarulla, discusses with another man the manipulation of vote machines in a polling station.
This new video follows a previous one in which an Amazonas state government worker, Victoria Franchi, speaks clearly of vote-buying. Rodriguez said Franchi is currently in Colombia under the protection of a paramilitary group.
Rodriguez also showed two more videos in which citizens admit they received money from coordinators of the right-wing MUD coalition to pay people who voted for them.
He condemned the actions taken by the right-wing politicians and said they are trying to overthrow the government of President Nicolas Maduro.
The election victories of three right-wing legislators and one socialist legislator from Amazonas state have been suspended by the Supreme Court, which prevented them from taking their seats until an investigation for electoral fraud is concluded.
Nevertheless, the new National Assembly, dominated by the MUD alliance, ignored the court’s ruling and swore in its three legislators Wednesday.
In response, the top Venezuelan court ruled that all decisions made by the National Assembly be nulled while an investigation continues into voting irregularities.