But the country is back at work, as much as it is possible, and the National Assembly has started the road to open confrontation not only with the executive, but on the true meaning of the Venezuelan constitution, as this one may be.
A few minutes ago the National Assembly voted the final version of the amnesty law which aims, among other things, to free political prisoners incarcerated in kangaroo courts. An amnesty is needed since there is no way to get a truly fair trial in Venezuela these days.
But this law, which intents is also the start of some form of national reconciliation by forcing every side to face the reality that justice is in the hands of the executive (even though this cannot be said in the law), is far from being applied and Leopoldo Lopez is not out of jail yet. Maduro's regime has announced that he will not sign the law, that it will not be applied. Presidential veto power is limited in Venezuela, at best a delaying tactic. Thus within days, with or without the signature of Maduro the law will become the law of the land. Maduro can only stop this law application if the high court TSJ rules it to be unconstitutional. This is certainly the case as the TSJ has always managed to find any "unconstitutional" way to make a given an unconstitutional one, even if the means used is itself unconstitutional. Repetition intended.
Which brings us to the second point of this entry: after the vote the national Assembly went straight ahead in the modification of the laws describing how the TSJ is designated. The aim is to find a way to go around the latest crop of appointees who got their job through unconstitutional ways to allow for the pre-electoral packing of the court. Yes, it is that naked but then again the TSJ submission to the regime is that naked: nobody remembers when was the last time that the state/regime lost a case in court.
In short, the regime is going to be placed in front of this dilemma: either accept the revision of the latest appointments so those can be made according to the original intent of the law, or accept an expansion of the TSJ members so that there is at least dissenting opinions. A dilemma the regime will refuse by declaring that legal reform unconstitutional, even though it will violate the very own regime jurisprudence that was itself a constitutional violation. This is how things work in Venezuela: several wrongs are required to improve the odds of making a right.
In a way it is irrelevant whether the regime will release Lopez from jail, or allow for a limited dissent at the TSJ. It is quite clear now that the regime faction aligned around Maduro and Cabello will go out of its way to avoid any move that could undermine its power and drive through regime change, a change that would find soon in jail Maduro, Cabello, Ramirez and scores of other corrupt and abusive office holders.
The regime has made it abundantly clear that it will not let the new National Assembly function as it should be. The TSJ has already gutted its control authority. It is finding a way to avoid votes on financial resources (which may be difficult at the Assembly has already stated that credits not approved by the Assembly do not put the state under the obligation of repaying them). More blockades to the Assembly are not obvious yet as its election is, after all, still recent. But the tone is set: the TSJ will provide what the regime cannot get through the Assembly.
Since the regime has embarked into such a course to void the National Assembly then this one has no choice but to face down the confrontation by voting on legal laws (redundancy intended) to dismantle the regime. Either the regime will have to back down or it will have to come up to terms with its own dark intentions and, well, proceed once and for all to the "autogolpe", self-inflicted-coup á la Fujimori once upon a time in Peru.
For the regime going all the way to a constitutional crisis is a gamble. Not only the Amnesty Law and the TSJ reform are politically unacceptable for the reduced chavista hard core, but more laws in the work (on recall elections and referenda) are even less acceptable. The political cost, here and abroad, maybe simply to high for the regime to pay. Times are changing, Obama visited Cuba, Argentina is gone and Kirchner is not able to make the opposition that some thought she would be able to do. In Brasil the corruption of Lula is now public knowledge. Talk of applying the democratic charter agaisnt Venezuela is now open talk. But what is worse for the regime is that there is no food nor medicine, and soon there will be no electricity besides providing homes with a very few hours a day, forget about energy for production. Amen of the political capital lost abroad: the regime has no political capital left to spend at home.
Common sense would make the regime start negotiating a political solution to start taking measures to avoid the nation's collapse. But it seems that Maduro et al are seeking actively such collapse as there last desperate gambit to retain power.
La politique du pire, they called it in the agonizing French Ancien Regime.