Presentation on theme: "Constitution as Catharsis Part 4 – Venezuela Last updated 18 Oct 10 Latin American Law."— Presentation transcript:
Constitution as Catharsis Part 4 – Venezuela Last updated 18 Oct 10 Latin American Law
Constitution in crisis
US Constitution (1791) Why was the 26 th constitution of Venezuela of 1961 “moribund”? Was a new constitution necessary? Julia Di Vito Puerto Rico (1952) Cuba (1976) Costa Rica (1949) Venezuela (1999) Colombia (1991) Ecuador (1998) Peru (1993) Bolivia (1967) Paraguay (1992) Chile (1980) Uruguay (1967) Argentina (1994) Brazil (1988) Dominican Republic (2002) Nicaragua (1987) Panama (1972) El Salvador (1983) Mexico (1917) Honduras (1982)
Aug 12 – Constituent Assembly declares “emergency” Aug 24 – Chief Justice Cecilia Sosa resigns Aug 25 – Constituent Assembly declares “legis emergency” Fall – Emerg Judicial Comm’n Sep – CA aims at executive branch Sep 14 – Non-aggression pact Aug 20 – Congressional threaten cutting govt funds Aug 27 – Violence erupts when Congress holds session Dec 15 – Constitution Jul 25 – FRM wins 120/131 seats Apr 25 – plebiscite to draft new constitution Feb 2 – Chavez takes office Aug 23 – Supreme Court upholds “Judicial Reorg Decree” Venezuela (1999) The absurdity of claiming to improve democracy by wielding authoritarian power is difficult to ignore. Lauren Connell
National Constituent Assembly (Aug 1999): Judicial Reorganization Decree … while the Court violated the letter of the law in taking the case, the spirit of the law dictated that it restore the rule of law. But then in its opinion, the Court followed the letter of the law ….
Hugo ChavezSandra Day O’Connor “… the Justices of the Supreme Court do not fear an evaluation of their actions or behavior.” Venezuela Supreme Court (23 Aug 1999)
Your favorite dissenter? Julia Di Vito Paradisi Leon: Decree is political, not subject to review by this Court. Rodriguez Garcia: Necessary to wait for fomral publication of Decree. Harting: Decree gives Judicial Reorganization Commission powers that belong exclusively to Supreme Court … sacred right to disagree. Grisanti: It is contradictory for Supreme Court to consent to being evaluated by Judicial Emergency Commission. Sosa: Decree undermines rule of law. Assembly arrogates to self role of “superpower.” Court renounces “case law” on Assembly powers. Rueda: There has been no legal challenge, thus Court does not have power to review Decree.
Cecilia Sosa Gomez (announcing 2004 presidential candidacy) Without a constitution there is simply no democracy. … The citizenry will not have the right to vote on the new constitution that the Assembly is drafting. * * * The Court committed suicide to avoid being murdered. See video. video
ProcessSubstance In re Judicial Reorganization Decree (Venezuela Sup Ct 1999) Bush v. Gore (US Sup Ct 2000) Grade the court: Compare to the Bush “structural change of federal government” Lauren Connell
Judges in Latin America … “One dramatic example is a judge who threw money out of her window and onto the street below when the police entered her office to arrest her for accepting a bribe.” En Venezuela, desde la promulgación, en 1999, de la nueva Constitución, está prohibido al Poder Judicial exigir pago alguno por sus servicios. Global Programme against Corruption? Reelection of judges in LatAm Joel De Leon
Number of judges per 100,000 residents (2003)
Constitutional comparison …
Bolivarian Constitution (1999) Title I: FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES Title II: GEOGRAPHICAL SPACES AND POLITICAL DIVISION Title III: DUTIES, HUMAN RIGHTS AND GUARANTEES Title IV: PUBLIC POWER Title V: ORGANIZATION OF NATIONAL PUBLIC AUTHORITY Title VI: SOCIOECONOMIC SYSTEM Title VII: NATIONAL SECURITY Title VIII: PROTECTION OF THE CONSTITUTION Title IX: CONSTITUTIONAL REFORMS New constitutions (27 in 196 years – 1.4/decade) US Constitution (1791) Preamble ["We the people...."] Art I [The Legislative Branch]..Sec 1. [Legislative Power Vested]..Sec 2. [House of Representatives]..Sec 3. [Senate]..Sec 4. [Elections of Senators, Representatives]..Sec 5. [Rules of House and Senate]..Sec 6. [Compensation and Privileges of Members]..Sec 7. [Passage of Bills]..Sec 8. [Scope of Legislative Power]..Sec 9. [Limits on Legislative Power]..Sec 10. [Limits on States] Art II [The Presidency]..Sec 1. [Election, Installation, Removal]..Sec 2. [Presidential Power]..Sec 3. [State of the Union, Receive Ambassadors, Laws Faithfully Executed, Commission Officers]..Sec 4. [Impeachment] Art III [The Judiciary]..Sec 1. [Judicial Power Vested]..Sec 2. [Scope of Judicial Power]..Sec 3. [Treason] Art IV [The States]..Sec 1. [Full Faith and Credit]..Sec 2. [Privileges and Immunities, Extradiction, Fugitive Slaves]..Sec 3. [Admission of States]..Sec 4. [Guarantees to States] Art V [The Amendment Process] Art VI [Legal Status of the Constitution] Art VII [Ratification] Amendments (27 in 216 years – 1.3/decade) Political Spoils Electoral and Citizen Branches Alonzo Chisolm
Article 336 dictates the specific powers of the Supreme Court: To declare the nullity, in whole or in part, of national laws and other acts of National Assembly with the force of law, which are in conflict with this Constitution. To declare the nullity, in whole or in part, of state Constitutions and laws, municipal ordinances and other acts of the deliberating bodies of the States and Municipalities which are issued by way of direct and immediate implementation of the Constitution and are in conflict with the same. To declare the nullity, in whole or in part, of acts of the National Executive with the force of law, which are in conflict with this Constitution. To declare the nullity, in whole or in part, of acts issued by way of direct and immediate implementation of the Constitution by any other government organ exercising Public Power. To verify, at the request of the President of the Republic or the National Assembly, the constitutionality of international treaties signed by the Republic, prior to ratification of the same. To review in all cases, even ex officio, the constitutionality of decree of the President of the Republic decreeing states of exception.
… the people are willing to look the other way when the constitution is abused, if it concerns something that they really care about – in this case, their safety. [What country is student talking about?]
Chavez’s Venezuela …
Chávez administration: government social spending increased significantly increased access to health care, subsidized food, education health care: 1,628 primary care physicians in 1998 for a population of 23.4 million and today 19,571 for a population of 27 million poverty rate in Venezuela decreased from 43.9% in 1999 to 27.5% in 2007 unemployment rate dropped to about 9% in 2007, lowest level in more than a decade
Title VIII, entitled The Protection of the Constitution, declares that the document will remain in force even if it is displaced completely. It imposes on the citizens a “duty to help reestablish the Constitution’s effective validity.” Chavez fears? Chavez placed the speed of reform ahead of its constitutionality (compare to Obama’s “change” agenda) amendment to Article 230. Lauren Connell
Artículo 236. Son atribuciones y obligaciones del Presidente o Presidenta de la República: … 7. Declarar los estados de excepción y decretar la restricción de garantías en los casos previstos en esta Constitución. The Bolivarian revolution Joel De Leon
Comparison Fedecámaras U.S. Chamber of Commerce Ben Austrin-WIllis
… The Supreme Court held constitutional the government’s seizure of a private television station and use of its equipment and broadcast channel to project a new channel, Venezuelan Social Television Joe Adams … Out of the thirty-two justices total, ten are women; this makes for 31% female representation on the highest court. [None in Electoral Chamber; six of ten in Criminal Appeals Chamber] Jill Reeder