Today the National Assembly sessions for 2017 started, without the regime dissolving it. Actually chavismo representatives attended though they denounced that the Assembly was illegal, and that they would not even bother naming their whip. The chair for this year sessions is Julio Borges, replacing Ramos Allup. In his inaugural speech he took no gloves. He said that the objective of the Assembly was to find a way to get rid of the terrible government of Nicolas Maduro. And he demanded that the army faced up to its responsibilities: either support Maduro and its narco state, going down with him in infamy, or force him to accept elections and restore constitutional rule. Borges could have not been any clearer, and challenged the regime just as this one named the most leftist, castroite, communist narko cabinet since 1998.
So let's see what this all means.
But first, a little summary of what is the legal role of the Assembly now, and what the vice president of Venezuela is good for. (1)
The TSJ high court of Venezuela has ruled that the National Assembly is working outside the law because it has recognized the election of three representatives of Amazonas state whose election has been challenged. I am not going into the legalese here. Suffice to say that the election has been held thirteen months ago and the TSJ has yet to rule about the validity of the election. In no democracy such a delay in deciding an election is acceptable. Most democracies can hold by-elections in a matter of weeks, and correcting the electoral problem, like reviewing voter registry, does not take more than an extra month or so. There is absolutely no excuse for these by elections not to have been held by June 2016. The trick here is that as long as the validity of that election is not decided then the National Assembly does not have the 2/3 majority needed for some laws since the TSJ does not recognize the Amazonas representatives EVEN THOUGH they refuse to rule on their election. But the TSJ goes further than the 2/3 requirement: it is an excuse to throw out any legislation passed by the Assembly.
In short, the regime has no interest in settling the electoral issue since it is a perfect excuse to overthrow any action the Assembly may vote. It has nothing to do with democracy, it is all about retaining power even though the people has decided other wise on December 6.
As such the challenge speech of Borges is very simple to explain: since the regime will not recognize the Assembly under any circumstance, since the regime will not accept an electoral solution, then the only thing left is to challenge and force the regime to go to the logical conclusion of its totalitarian nature and dissolve the Assembly once and for all. Or quit. There is no dialogue, no nothing. The regime made it an either or situation.
In case you do not get it yet, it means that the Assembly is getting ready to organize protest all time, everywhere until it finally calls for the application of article 350 of the constitution which gives people the right not to recognize branches of government that do not follow the constitution. Yes, that crazy provision exists and will surely lead us to civil war.
The other thing in this game of thrones is the vice presidency. As of January 11, who ever has been APPOINTED without an election to the office of the vice president will become the automatic successor of Maduro if something were to happen to him. Otherwise the office of vice president of Venezuela is not even comparable to the one of prime minster in a parliamentary system. The Venezuelan Vice President is merely a super minister that takes care of the shop when the president is busy with something, like a trip overseas. The vice can be named and removed at will. The vice is, well, a bureaucrat who just becomes important after the president passes the 4 year mark of the 6 year term. Hence the importance this time around of Tareck El Aissami appointment yesterday. (2)
Putting Tareck at that positon has several political meanings. One is that the radical wing seems to have won the game inside chavismo and there is is only the military to stop them. Or so we are asked to believe. Another is that Tareck is second only to Diosdado Cabello in the repulsiveness factor. That is, Maduro tells us that we should let him serve his last two years otherwise Tareck will be the president. A sick game of wolf blackmail. Yet a third reading is that the regime is so exhausted, so discredited that those left willing to serve are basically the psychopaths. As such this reading is that the regime has decided to kill to stay in office. As much as necessary.
In all of these readings Tareck is merely the representative of a faction and we do not know for sure how much power he actually has inside chavismo. One thing we do not need to fool ourselves with: as a governor of Aragua he has demonstrated that he does not know how to manage a state. Managing a country he cannot. Tareck has only being good at creating militas, paramilitary organization and, well, organized crime. There is a reason for him to be on the DEA lists. He leaves his Aragua state as the most dangerous state in the country, the one where colectivos and pranes rule more than he does, And he probably is their ally since he cannot control them at this point, even if he wanted to.
Think a second about the problems the regime faces now. Financially its budget is illegal and whomever lends money to Maduro risks not to be payed back once chavismo is booted out. But even if you were to consider lending money because the regime makes you an offer you got to consider, who is going to sit down with a vice president like Tareck? Do you really want to be pictured shaking hand with somebody who someday may be wearing an orange uniform?
The regime knows that, but it also has realized that it is too deep in shit and that might as well learn to live in autarky like the Castros do in Cuba. All there eat shit or nothing, but all are under control. That is the advice that Cuba has been giving the regime for years, we are just reaching the final implementation stage when people like me will have to cave in for food or leave the country.
In other words it does not matter who the vice president is for international purposes: only what this one will do at home matters. Hence the reckless nomination of Tareck (and some of those along).
You thus need to understand this to appreciate fully the gamble that Borges put in front today. These actions of the regime are more signs of desperate weakness. But it is when a rabid dog is cornered that it is the most dangerous. Yet, you do need to corner that dog before people are hurt.
If the year starts with such drama I do not want to think about what awaits us for the next 51 weeks.
1) constitutionally the session period for the National Assembly is January to December, In January a chair and its assistants are named for the year. this is supposed to take place on January 5, Then about a week or two later the president needs to go and give the state of the union speech. The rest of the year has recesses, etc, with a delegation of the Assembly to seat during recess in case of.
2) the first 4 years of the presidential term the vice president replaces the president if this one ceases his functions. But it is as a caretaker, for little bit more than a month. Thus him being appointed is not a major issue, But after the 4th year, it is.