Now, in all fairness, the right to protest should not be unbridled. For example, if you protest and there are negative consequences as to your protest you should be accountable for them. Or you should not be able to protest when your motivation is based on prejudice. And even spontaneous protest, as the one that could happen because, say, a bank refuses to pays it account holders, should be held in such a way minimum harassment comes out of it. In other words, there should be some legal system that considers these protest activities for their consequences, but not their reasonable motivations. There is the matter of free expression associated with the right to protest, you know...
What the TSJ constitutional hall did today was to legislate where there is a vacuum. And it did so to deliberately favor the side that seems unable to find a democratic solution to stop the justified wave of protests in many areas all across the country.
In other words the TSJ has decided with a single stroke to limit two fundamental rights, the right to peaceful protest and by extension the rights on freedom of expression. Did I mention that as it has been the case for years there was NO DISSENTING opinion?
If this was not bad enough, reading the decision you find a few little jewels. I picked this one, at the end.
Ante la desobediencia de la decisión tomada por la primera autoridad civil de la jurisdicción, bien por el hecho de haberse efectuado la manifestación o reunión pública a pesar de haber sido negada expresamente o por haber modificado las condiciones de tiempo, modo y lugar que fueron autorizadas previamente, la referida autoridad deberá remitir al Ministerio Público, a la mayor brevedad posible toda la información atinente a las personas que presentaron la solicitud de manifestación pacífica, ello a los fines de que determine su responsabilidad penal por la comisión del delito de desobediencia a la autoridad previsto en el artículo 483 del Código Penal, además de la responsabilidad penal y jurídica que pudiera tener por las conductas al margen del Derecho, desplegadas durante o con relación a esas manifestaciones o reuniones públicas.
I translate (my emphasis):
---If there is disobedience of the decision taken by the highest civil authority of the jurisdiction, either because the expressly forbidden demonstration or public meeting was held, or because there were changes in the conditions of time, manner and place that were authorized previously, that authority shall submit to the Attorney General, at the earliest possible time, all information pertaining to persons who applied to peaceful demonstration, and it shall be used to determine their criminal responsibility for the crime of contempt of authority referred to in Article 483 of the Penal Code, in addition to criminal and legal liability that may be for conduct outside the law, deployed during or in connection with the demonstrations or public meetings.---
Let me give you a sense of perspective. The local authorities now have to act as accusing parties for anything that someone may complain, even if originally they supported the said protest. They are to become a snitch. And any excess committed in such a protest will be blamed on the callers for that protest. Let me give you an example.
Suppose that a neighborhood association decides to protest for the recurrent lack of water in its district. Suppose the chavista mayor says no because he has appointed a relative/political ally at the water authority. The protest is carried ahead anyway. The mayor now can sue the leaders that called for the protest. And if by any chance the protest was a little bit harsher than expected (they threw a tomato on a civil servant), the mayor will have an easier time for it. And if the mayor, sensing political danger, authorized the protest anyway but in conditions difficult to meet, it will be easy for the mayor to create some incident (a blocked street on any sudden excuse, forcing the protest to walk peacefully through another street) to state afterwards that the protest was not conducted as accorded and thus the organizers are subject to investigation and sanction.
You get the picture: repression is made way easier.
Of course the regime is unable to enforce nationwide such a new ruling. The intent is elsewhere. For example, Maria Corina Machado states in Tucupita that she supports the authorized protest in Maracaibo next day. Unfortunately something goes wrong with that protest next day and now MCM can be linked, even from Tucupita, and can be prosecuted because her support sent her supporters to that march and we do not know who was the cause of the said incident but since it could be a supporter of MCM then she should go to jail. And even if we find through a video all the guilty party that acted without MCM approval, since they self identified as her supporters, she is liable anyway. That is the objective of the new ruling, to create a new type of crime, that does not exist in the constitution, but that now can be used against any political target the regime has. The beauty of it all is that there was no need to modify the penal code, there was no need to debate and vote a new law, there was no need to amend the constitution. Just as in the case of the jailed mayors of San Diego and San Cristobal, the regime used the high court to create a new de facto system. Dictatorship anyone? Fascism anyone?
The question is: what will the MUD do at the next dialogue reunion? Holding my breath I 'aint not.