|Will that change this week?|
There is a difference between this enabling law and the ones passed before, or even the attempt at constitutional change sought in 2007. These previous attempts were at least supported by the clear preference of the country for Chavez, for whatever misguided love his voters had for him. Also their scope was less ambitious in that Chavez sought to control specifics (or all in 2007 but at least it was through a constitutional reform submitted to popular vote). What we got yesterday was the declared intention of the regime to control all of the economic aspects of the country and, through them, our private lives. Fascism or Communism, your choice, there are both of these elements in the brief proposal submitted yesterday.
By submitting such an unconstitutional law, and worse, simply an improper law, the regime has rolled the dice and called for an open, unavoidable, political crisis. The reasons are a dropping popularity, a misfit president with Maduro, a camarilla of desperate people afraid to lose their privileges and go to jail after a regime change. And more that we have discussed in the past. What is more interesting today is to see the possible scenarios. With the pathological secretiveness of the regime coupled with constant disinformation leaks, we cannot foresee any specific one. But we can draw general consequences.
The easiest, in a way, scenario to imagine is that the law does not pass. The regime needs 99 votes and it has only 98 "certain". The thing here that could bring an unexpected surprise is that the enabling law can be, and would be used to purge chavismo rank and file as needed. As such we can be sure that more than one chavista representative is secretly wondering what is the worse fate for him/her: to vote against or to vote for. Voting against makes you a pariah, maybe, inside chavismo but gives enough time to resign, pack your stuff and leave the country if needed. Voting for it means that suddenly some day you can be thrown speedily to the wolves when needed, just as it happened last week with Valencia mayor, Parra, and his family.
This possibility, not to be discarded, would be a major setback for Maduro, make the division inside chavismo wide open which is all but certain to provoke the departure of Maduro in a matter of months. We do not know what would replace Maduro, from fair elections to open military regime, but such a political defeat coupled to his very questionable legitimacy would make his position unsustainable.
The scenario of approval are two, depending on how the law is approved.
If the regime cannot find inside the opposition that 99th vote, it may be tempted to pass the law anyway though the help of the high court which is now used to violate the 1999 Constitution as needed. The high court could either remove representatives on any pretext or even "interpret" constitutional requirement. It does not matter, a political crisis would follow. Capriles is already on record saying that if the enabling law is not voted according to the Constitution he will not recognize it. And we can be sure that he will not be alone as one objective of the enabling law is to destroy the current opposition structure. If the chavista regime were to pass illegally the enabling law it would mean that they are also doing a final coup, they will have no other choice. The opposition leadership will be cornered and forced to take a stand.
The regime may also find that mysterious 99th vote. It has been at work on that for months now, blackmailing and bribing as many representatives as possible. They may yet succeed though so far it does not seem to be the case. But if indeed suddenly an additional opposition representative were to go to the dark side the "victory" would be an empty one. A political crisis would also follow in this scenario but it will operate in two times. At first, there may be a rather small political crisis inside the opposition since the betrayal may lead a handful more representatives to feel lost in the dictatorship and seek some accommodation.
But as the regime starts publishing the laws derived from the enabling law, chavismo will go into purge mode as the conflict between Maduro and Cabello, the radicals and the pragmatists will have to be played out, each side trying to take advantage of the splinter opposition. Or not, it does not matter. Chavismo owes its current façade of unity to the unified opposition which slow but continuous grow scares the heirs of Chavez. The paradox of an Enabling Law victory through dividing the opposition is that this could speed up the break down of chavismo.
As the "debate" starts in the Assembly for the dictatorship law we can only be pessimistic. Corruption and the economic crisis will not be solved though that law because the only thing it will do is exacerbate the economic control system, held by the same people who have proven their disregard for economic realities in the last decade and a half. The Venezuelan currency went from 500 to 50,000 for a US dollar, no more comments are needed to prove that point. Unfortunately the other aspect of the enabling law that some people on each side wish for, to postpone a political crisis, will not work either as described above.
The enabling law will accelerate the economic and political crises, whether it passes, whether it is applied if it passes.
The Enabling Law of Maduro, as justified by chavismo, is not justifiable. All the laws necessary for the objectives searched are in the books already or could be voted by the comfortable majority that chavismo holds in parliament courtesy of the obscene gerrymandering of 2010 election. The problem for chavismo is that some of the laws needed to either control the economy or make it more manageable, more pragmatical, could not find a consensus inside chavismo if they were to be discussed. By imposing them from above it is supposed to spare chavismo from potential divisions. At the price of democracy of course, but these people never were democrats.
Without entering into dramatic major conspiracy theories about chavismo putting up big brother screens in our homes courtesy of the enabling law, we can observe cynically that the enabling laws seeks strict control of opposition political parties finances. Even though chavismo abuses the money of the states for its campaigns, and has severely limited access to opposition candidate sin the media, the disastrous economy keeps strengthening the opposition. The only way left for chavismo to control the opposition, short of putting them into concentration camp, it to make it impossible to find electoral financing. That can only push the opposition, AND dissident chavismo toward violence.
Corruption has so corroded chavismo, has created so many groups wanting their share that the only way the regime can find to control and to spread around the money to its true supporters is to make all currency managed directly by a political group inside the presidential palace. The enabling law does offer that possibility. Increased corruption is certain because now all importations would be made in theory through the regime which will sell to the private sector, forbidding them to do their own timely purchases overseas. That the economy will be pushed fast to a standstill is not a problem for the regime, what they want is to centralize all the commissions gained though imports at favorable currency exchanges.
The three notes above will have devastating effects fast, something that chavismo in its ideological arrogance is unable to perceive. And thus once the "noble" objectives fail, within 6 months at most, the enabling law will still be running long enough to start emitting the repressive laws that will invade our private lives.