Even the high court of Venezuela had trouble putting its act together to violate the constitution: it left journalists waiting for 3 hours before finally TSJ head honcho Luisa Estela Morales Lamuño decided to tell the country that for all practical purposes Hugo Chavez was elected Hugo 1st, king of Venezuela, and that Maduro will rule until either Chavez decides to come back, or dies, or whatever it is that happens in monarchical succession.
The TSJ ruling is simple: there is no absence of Chavez temporal or absolute. Chavez is out on a medical trip, he just has a job leave as any Venezuelan worker would, which will last as long as he needs it to last. As such the government he left in place continues as if nothing, the swearing in of Chavez is a mere formality, but necessary, and as such it can take place at anytime. There is no need to replace Chavez, he is president of Venezuela even if he is on life support. Heck! Brain dead for that matter as long as the Cuban artificial lung keeps pumping oxygen in his lungs.
What is the most disconcerting in a decision that comes as no surprise is the lack of time frame, an even bigger constitutional violation if you ask me than whether Chavez was supposed to be sworn in on January 10. The Constitution is quite clear: the president can absent himself from the country or office with certain sets of permits and time limitations (articles 233-235). Luisa told us that since he asked for a leave of absence for medical reasons, these articles do not apply and he can stay in Cuba for as long as he wants. No problems, we'll do without him for the next 6 years if necessary.
In short, Luisa and her acolytes have violated 4 articles of the constitution at once. Nice job! There is only one problem left that she has not addressed: since the vice president has to be named by the president, what would happen if Maduro slips in his shower tonight and breaks his neck? Unless of course, a letter from Chavez is enough to name a new vice president with no one around to witness that he indeed signed that letter......
Thus the constitutional coup has proceeded and we are now in a de facto regime, a monarchy as a matter of facto. After such a gross violation there is no telling what the TSJ will come up next. We might as well close the damn office and let Maduro do whatever he wants.
Now, why would the 7 "justices" of the constitutional hall of the TSJ would allow themselves to be placed on the infamy bench of Venezuelan history?
Well, of course they know that without Chavez they have no future and could even face jail for their previous unconstitutional rulings. Thus they need to avoid elections for at least 6 more years, until they retire, cash in and can move to another country and keep a low profile there.
But that is not enough of an explanation. After all, in theory the regime was not threatened. Diosdado Cabello would have become president [he is supposedly a Chavez loyalist] for at most a couple of months while Nicolas Maduro, the designated heir of Chavez and the Castros, run a quick campaign before nasty problems such as devaluation induced inflation come to hit the faithful masses. Luisa's words tell us that there is no going to be any presidential election until Chavez dies, or until December 2018, whichever comes first. That much is clear now.
The reason why chavismo has decided to embark recklessly into what is a de facto regime (though I am sure that Chavez little pals will accept this as if nothing) is that Chavez succession is not settled, no matter what Chavez and Raul decided long ago.
The ones that prevailed are those who wish a continued link to Cuba, a continued colonial imposition from the Castros. Only Maduro was reliable enough for that because his lackluster character would have forced him to depend too much on Cubans and the radical chavismo to stay in office. On the other hand Cabello can count on the military (or at least a large faction of them) and the bolibourgoise who are sensing that a little bit of economic freedom and less money sent to the Cuban vampire would actually improve their lot. A president Cabello could afford to send Cubans home and gain in the process (1).
In other words, the TSJ ruling of today means for all practical purposes that Maduro has scored his second point against Cabello, the first one being when Chavez designated him his heir last December (2). But fear not, it is not over for Cabello, this is kind of a major league contest, kind of best of 13...... With a "sudden death" at any time.
1) "bolibourgeoisie" is the new rich class that grew to obscene levels though currency traffic and juicy state contracts that quite often were never fulfilled but always paid for.
2) this is all a succession war, already reported several times in this blog, as recently as yesterday. Keep this in mind at all times.