Legislators from the majority right-wing Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) bloc in Venezuela’s parliament have officially petitioned the Organization of American States (OAS) to intervene in the country’s politics, after the Supreme Court blocked their attempts to remove thirteen of its judges.
National Assembly President Ramos Allup described the Supreme Court’s Sentence “invalid, non-existent and non-binding”. His declaration has been challenged by several attorneys.
In a parliamentary session on Thursday, MUD legislators officially signed an agreement requesting assistence from OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro and asking him to invoke the inter-state body’s No. 20 “democratic clause” against Venezuela.
The legislators were reacting to a Supreme Court decision released on Tuesday, detailing the limitations of the National Assembly’s powers according to the national Bolivarian Constitution.
In particular, judges at the court’s Constitutional Chamber confirmed that the legislative body only has the power to exert political control on government and public administration bodies, as opposed to on other public powers such as the judiciary as well as electoral and citizen’s powers.
The judges also stated that the National Assembly appeared to be attempting to discredit both the executive and the judiciary for political gain, instead of fulfilling its role of responding to citizens’ concerns.
The decision is a thorn in the side of the right-wing coalition, who had previously stated their intention to use their new found majority in the National Assembly to rescind several TSJ judges previously appointed by the outgoing socialist parliament in December.
According to the constitution, supreme court judges may be removed by two-thirds of the National Assembly if they are found by the ombudsman’s office to have committed “serious offences”.
MUD leader and National Assembly President Ramos Allup told press that the bloc plans to disregard the TSJ ruling. The politician claims that the decision is “non-existent” and “non-binding” for MUD legislators, given that it was only signed by four out of seven of the chamber’s judges.
“It violated article 40. of their own Law of the Supreme Court. Only four signed, not the three express magistrates. It’s an invalid sentence,” he said.
Allup’s statement caused outrage amongst some attorneys, however, who hit back at the lawyer-come-politician and accused him of being “out of touch” with current laws.
“The juridic reality is that the stated-norm to which Ramos Allup refers is of sub legal status and was overturned by article 103 of the Supreme Court Justice Law in 2010, which is what has been in use since then” said constitutional lawyer, Jesus Silva.
“In the case of article 40 of the rules of the Supreme Court Justice, it’s necessary to take into account that: this article refers uniquely to the entire tribunal, not to the Constitutional Chamber… and a qualified majority is not demanded for any sentence,” he added.
Other MUD legislators went further than Allup in their reactions to the court’s decision.
Deputy Freddy Guevara– formerly one of the most radical members of the country’s right-wing student movement– called on Venezuelans to rise up against the government in response to the ruling.
“If the government and judges refuse to recognise the people, the people are obliged not to recognise them and apply article 350 of the Constitution. If they (the government) block constitutional paths, they don’t have as many arms and soldiers as we, the people, do,” he said.
MUD legislator Luis Florido also confirmed that a delegation of the coalition’s deputies will head to Chile and Uruguay next week to garner support for their request to the OAS.
Hostile exchanges between the executive and legislature have become frequent since the MUD took majority hold over the country’s parliament in December 2015.
Since then, members of the rightwing coalition have consistently called for the head of state’s resignation and the removal of the government by both constitutional and unconstitutional means.
The TSJ, which is designated as the highest authority for interpreting the country’s Constitution, has been called on frequently to mediate disputes between the two powers– often finding in favour of the executive.
This is the first time, however, that the National Assembly has publicly solicited outside intervention in a bid to gain the upper hand in the power struggle.
Although OAS Secretary-General Almagro has yet to respond to the request, he has been consistently hostile to Venezuela’s elected Chavista government since coming to occupy the position in May 2015.
Earlier in the week, former National Assembly president and legislator for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Diosdado Cabello, alleged that Supreme Court judges were receiving death threats as a result of the situation.