Taking advantage of the half week (after Carnival holidays), that tomorrow there is no session in the Assembly, the high court , TSJ, decided that the vote to reject the Emergency decree of last January was not valid and thus the decree has been valid since January 14.
You are going to need a lot of pennies for my thoughts. Let's get going.
First, the factual aspect of it. Clearly, as you will understand in the second part of this post, this is a political move of the regime, a dangerous move that can only hurt itself. See, by downgrading the Assembly to nothing the regime will assume the full cost of the political and economic crisis which is getting worse by the minute. Then again, at this point the regime is beyond caring.
So, which are the facts? A technicality. According to the court head, the assembly should have voted down the decree within 48 hours and not within a week. It is on TV record that the chair of the Assembly verified about the week delay and the government did not object to it, and agreed to send the ministers to present their case. They did not, but that is not the point. That they agreed to show up and then did not show up was a tacit admission that the week delay was valid and thus under no circumstances can the high court intervene to defend one of the parties who suddenly, AFTER the fact, may secretly decide to appeal a decision. In other words, this has been a conspiracy where no parts was asked to present its counter argument. The servile high court of the regime emitted the political decision that was requested and that was that.
Let's also add that the Assembly offered to discuss a new version of the decree if the government wished to do so, even the same one if the gouvernement had the courtesy to be more explicit on its proposals. We heard only chirps in the woods.
Before we go into consequences and speculations let's discuss as a second item the political message in that decision. From the preexisting laws Maduro and his regime could pretty much do as they pleased on the economic front. The decree was merely to project the image of "doing something" about shortages, and probably justifying blocking access to savings to try to control inflation somehow, and establishing ration cards, amen of creating absolutely idiotic and absolutely corrupt food distribution schemes like the ones already tried out in Yaracuy. Thus the decree was a provocation from the start to please the bruised ego of the radical left after the dramatic loss of December vote. It was also the start of some plan but that one was not quite congealed as we can deduct simultaneous from the very vagueness and extremism of the decree. Part of the information required to develop that plan was study the resolve of the Assembly, the reaction of the country, and how the crisis was going on (I suppose).
Clearly the Assembly was going to do its work, was not breaking down, was going to put its pressure on the regime slowly but surely. A clear message had to be sent and that the ruling of today IS the message. The TSJ will turn down ANY mesure the regime does not want, on ANY pretext. Legality has nothing to do with it. In case you do not quite understand this, it is the very last step before a "auto golpe" or self coup, where the executive power takes over all the powers of the Assembly in particular the ones from the purse (economy and the like) and control (hearings of ministers). In short Maduro has announced tonight that, together with the president of the TSJ Gladys Gutierrez, he will decide what of the Assembly will go and what will not go. He has created for himself a veto power that does not exist in the constitution and cannot be voted down because, well, it does not exist. Il suffisait d'y penser!
By the same token any attempt at modifying the Constitution will also be voted down by the TSJ... Even a consultative referendum. And forget about reviewing old laws if the regime does not want to. A dictatorship, let's say it so.
And so we reach the third part, the why and what next.
Let me start by the what next because it is fast. Clearly this requires a strong response as it is unacceptable. We will wait for the Assembly leadership for that, it is their job. For example the idiotic Samper has announced a trip to Venezuela to bring his happy findings of December. He should be put to task. The National Assembly can go as far as requesting an emergency meeting of the OAS. It can vote a motion to censor our girl Gladys. Etc... But what will probably happen may be quite different. The reaction of the TSJ is not quite a surprise. I am surprised in that it came this way and relatively late, but a reaction was coming. After all, I think already when I left on a trip I heard some ranting from Cabello to that effect. Or just when I cam back, or I forgot.
The regime is playing chaos as a strategy for survival (wait for an upcoming post) so we should count this ruling as bad but with a very nice silver lining: the regime is taking full political responsibility for all the economical, food and medical implosion taking place right now, under our eyes. The Assembly lone power now is to do its job, to act according to ethics, to grind its teeth and to keep telling to people that the regime is wrong and that there will be consequences for their actions and for the people that apply these actions. The economic crisis will do the rest when hungry crowds start looting and the army finally has to step in to fight the gangs of thugs that support the regime coordinating these looting actions.
Finally the why (to be expanded this week end).
The country is imploding. I saw that myself, with my own eyes, after only ten days away (rep. intended).
Yesterday they changed the chemotherapy schedule for my S.O. because the mandatory electric shortages demand that patients are all rushed up faster than what normal care demands because of where the clinic is located and the time they are forced to shut down AC..
I have a new bachaquero. He charges between 2 to 4 times the official rate according to X. But I get, occasional,office delivery of significant supplies, let's say for me, my S.O., his mother, my house keeper in San Felipe (where the situation is way worse than in Caracas), my cleaning lady in Caracas, all people that cannot stand in line and who I do not charge full price. In fact I do not charge them, I pay their work with it, and they are way happier than with money. My S.O. and Mom I charge them less as their health bills are getting high so it is a discrete form to help them I found. They are simply out of touch, for obvious reasons, about the reality of the country. We all have our crosses.
Water comes only twice a week now. But I have a large tank, So in protest I water my lawn. If the regime had made maintenance as previewed, if it had made the investments that were requested and scheduled for 2010 we would not be suffering from the consequences of El Niño. which is a mere excuse as all the money spent in electrical generation through Derwick et al. seems to have been for naught.
Today I tried a new scheme to have "crucial" medicine sent from Europe at a horrendous price and through difficult loops: need to be European, need to have insurance over there, need to prove you cannot find it here, need to prove it is life threatening, etc... The paper work alone could kill you. And I do not know if it will work out, and I feel awfully guilty for those that cannot apply and I am doing this for my S.O. with my savings as his own ones are now gone.
And with all of the above, believe it or not, I still feel like a privileged because I can still afford it. I need to count pennies but I can still allot. So think about those who cannot. Today I helped someone by buying 50 euros at the full dollar today rate . Normally I do not do that but she needed to pay her kids school for the rest of the year.......
And that is the why. The country is sliding into the abyss. The regime knows that default is unavoidable now, if not they can read Nagel, and may be embracing the idea of it. But it is also understanding that there will be a heavy political price to pay. They are willing to pay for it because Maduro and Diosdado and Cilia and Tarek and a few generals know that regime change means jail for themselves. So they prefer to preside over the ruin of a country that they think they thus can control more easily. In their calculation there will be enough oil money for some very basic food items and aspirin, and enough drug money for their creature comforts. They cannot go elsewhere. Not even Cuba, too close from the US of A. And so they need to take out the National Assembly, provoke them into a crisis that justifies in front of "el pueblo" its dissolution and do away with direct suffrage, replaced by indirect suffrage, easier to control. They do not care what the word will think, they will be way too worried about the default to worry about Ramos Allup fate
And thus the actions of the regime these past weeks must be understood according to such parameters. They are aware that they will not recover the fervor of the people. Chavez bought that fervor though lot of goodies, some through real ideologization though outside of a core base some were also in for the money. They cannot count on that anymore. The time for fascism has arrived. Repression, destruction of legality, even their very own already deficient one. Use the distress of the country as an excuse to clamp down and see what happens. The hope for action is that military will cave in and accept to be the repressing agent. If not, then it will have to be the thug gangs that the regime has been promoting all these years that will do the job. They seem able and willing.
Will the whole strategy work? It may. It may not. More in a coming post this week end..
Two notes added in proof-
1) In regard of the "why". The recent confrontation with Lorenzo Mendoza may have sped up the decision to procede with the decree. That Polar are the lone products available is a gaping hole in all the conspiracy theories of why the "economic" war is letting the country slowly starve. The expropriation of Polar is something that was a target of that decree and something that the regime needs to do, to bring down the last remaining independent institution in the country, a symbol on how failed the regime is. It also would suicidal but that is probably what the regime wants. Abject poverty for all.
2) And what about the Vice president?
I have a hard time to think that he is part in that show. He was having discrete and difficult contacts with Ramos Allup. Aristobulo Isturriz was named to try to find a way to work with the new Assembly and he knows that such negotiations last weeks and months, in the best cases. We were even led to believe that some of the appointments of January were to reinforce somewhat the more "moderate" line of Aristobulo, to give it a name.
Clearly that TSJ decision sinks any discussion Aristobulo was trying to have. So two hypothesis.
1) he was making some headway and radicals did not like it and use the TSJ to blow at Aristobulo who will be forced to apply a decree that he knows full well will not work and that he will be forced to take the blame for it. If that is the case I will recommend Aristobulo to start a political crisis by resigning right now, at a press conference, convoked to announce new measures and instead to announce his resignation.
2) he was not making headway, or did not intend to so anyway. So these discussion were to gain time. As such he embraces the TSJ ruling and seals the final break up with the Assembly and walks straight ahead in the constitutional crisis.
I suggest Aristobulo to think carefully about his next move because he is being set up, no matter which is the hypothesis he is working on. But if I were to advise him, I would resign and create a scandal.