Friday, August 22, 2008

Are we under a legal military regime in Venezuela?

The question is somewhat specious: judging from the number of military occupying high government positions, judging how the armed forces behave, judging how they feel superior than anyone else and judging by how Chavez keeps seducing them with more and more goodies, this blogger has long ago made up his ming that this is a military regime, the ultimate one in that the army reached power without the need of a coup. But apparently with the enabling law decrees, we are now an official military regime.

Veneconomia editorial today reports the results of a seminary where one of the speakers was general Uson, famed political prisoner, now released under the condition that he never discusses his case and abstain of any press declaration. But in this symposium he did talk and explained to us that form now on, no matter who becomes president after Chavez, Chavez will still remain for all practical purposes the army chief. Of course, if the opposition were to elect a president soon Chavez would be stripped of any army role he might want to keep. But if Chavez cannot run for office and must settle for a Putin like arrangement, well, he could indeed retain full control of the army.

True, from the hypothesis to the reality there is quite a distance, but at the very least we an see that these decree laws were much more calculated and carefully worded than what some naive writers thought at first.

To simplify your life, the editorial in full below (link on the right side on the "daily reads" section).

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In any other country where independence of the branches of government exists, there is respect for the constitution, and the rule of law prevails, the highest court of the land would have already annulled any laws such as the 26 enacted in Venezuela via special presidential powers. But, as everyone knows, Venezuela with Chávez at the helm does not enjoy those bounties.

It is common knowledge that Hugo Chávez used the package of laws enacted under his special powers to get around the people’s rejection of his proposed communist constitution on December 2, 2007.

A first reading of the 26 decree laws so enacted reveals that Chávez has, to all intents and purposes, eliminated private property, truncated an endless number of civil freedoms and rights, wiped out decentralization, and created his own private army by giving legal status to the militia as the fifth component of the now “Bolivarian” National Armed Force, to name just a few of the many unconstitutional changes he has introduced.

However, if one does a more detailed analysis, as General Francisco Usón did at a VenEconomy seminar, it also becomes clear that, if these laws are not abolished by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, Chávez will rise up as the country’s lifelong master. And don’t think that this is an exaggeration.

Article 6 of the new Organic Law of the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB after its initials in Spanish) is a new stratagem that grants the President of the Republic the military rank of “Commander-in-Chief,” with five stars included, and makes him the de facto “maximum hierarchical authority” not only of the FANB but of the entire country as well.

This article confers on him the authority to direct “the general development of operations, define and activate the area of conflict, theaters of operations, and strategic overall defense regions.”

What is more, Article 64 announces that “the character acquired with a rank or hierarchy is permanent” and that said rank or hierarchy “will only be lost by a firm sentence that carries with it the additional punishment of downgrading or expulsion from the FANB handed down by a court marshal.”

In case that is not clear enough, it means that Hugo Chávez will be able to continue as Commander-in-Chief for as long as he lives. And what is even worse, not even the election of a new president will relieve him of his powers, because, as anyone familiar with military lore knows, the first person to assume a rank will always have supremacy over those who come after him. In other words, the new president will be subordinate to Hugo Chávez in military matters.

In addition, Article 23 of this law grants the Commander-in-Chief the power to establish “strategic overall defense regions,” which will have their own Chief and Joint General Staff, both answerable to the Commander-in-Chief, and broad functions in matters of strategy, planning, and management and control of the nation’s defense.
To top it all, the civil authorities are now subordinate to the Commander-in-Chief when it comes to control over means and resources and their use in states of emergency or whenever such control is deemed necessary “in the interests of the defense of the nation.”

In a nutshell: with this decree-law, ushered in under his special powers, Hugo Chávez has made his dream of becoming lifelong president come true.

-The end-

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