Must be the U.S. constitution he’s reading…

In a rare bit of (seemingly) good news for the opposition, President Chávez has decided to veto the Universities Law that the 95% chavista outgoing National Assembly just approved.

Only trouble is, the Venezuelan Constitution doesn’t actually give the president veto power!

I realize it’s quaintly anachronistic to turn to the actual constitutional text to argue a political point in Venezuela these days, but I just think it’s funny: the first political victory the opposition has had in ages just came in the form of…an unconstitutional assertion of presidential power!

(If you’re nerdy enough to be curious, the relevant bit of the constitution is after the jump.)

Artículo 214. El Presidente o Presidenta de la República promulgará la ley dentro de los diez días siguientes a aquél en que la haya recibido. Dentro de ese lapso podrá, con acuerdo del Consejo de Ministros, solicitar a la Asamblea Nacional, mediante exposición razonada, que modifique alguna de las disposiciones de la ley o levante la sanción a toda la ley o parte de ella.

La Asamblea Nacional decidirá acerca de los aspectos planteados por el Presidente o Presidenta de la República, por mayoría absoluta de los diputados y diputadas presentes y le remitirá la ley para la promulgación.

El Presidente o Presidenta de la República debe proceder a promulgar la ley dentro de los cinco días siguientes a su recibo, sin poder formular nuevas observaciones…

For those of you who are not fluent in Bolivarian, the Constitution says that the President can ask the National Assembly to reconsider parts of a law or the entire thing. But if a majority of the National Assembly decides to ratify the law again, the President has to sign it. Chávez has no veto power.

Seriously, am I the last person left who actually reads that thing now and again?

Oh and notice how he can’t actually follow the constitutional procedure because he brilliantly left his “veto” decision until the very last day of the old assembly’s term! In other words, the Assembly that passed the law will not be the same Assembly that will approve it.

I know I’m not allowed to express shock at this sort of thing. But it is funny.

47 thoughts on “Must be the U.S. constitution he’s reading…

    • It doesn’t SAY that, but the Supreme Court will certainly interpret it that way, should anyone bother to appeal it to them.


  1. Francisco,

    I don’t believe that this is going to be it. Also,if the oppo thinks this is a victory then you know what it means. Partaaaaaaaay!!!!(party)

    It would be wise to be suspicious about this.
    Remember who we’re dealing with.He won’t just back off


  2. Metodex,
    Of course it’s a victory. Any time he backtracks due to popular pressure, it’s a victory. Small victory, but a victory indeed.

    This is not to say that Venezuela is some sort of democracy. Let’s remember the President still has ilegal enabling powers. But any time we show him to be the conflicted, irrational coward that he is – is a good day.


    • I don’t think it’s a victory, at all at all all. The guy has done it time and time again; throw a lot of stuff at the public, but at all times staying flexible and willing to take back one or more of his actions if there’s any opposition. He ends up looking good to his apologists and to foreigners (“President backs down from controversial plan XXX”). But in the meantime he’s gotten his way on the other 19 things he was doing at the same time. And in the future he’ll circle back and get his way on this too.


    • Juan Cristobal,
      With all respect: you are not very cautious here.

      This is chess. Hugo took back his tower, that’s all. We have been over this kind of things a zillion times and Hugo keeps gaining power. The game is over when it’s over.


  3. Juan Cristobal,

    With all due respeto, you’re being somewhat naive.
    Remember the Cuban VP that just got here?
    I don’t think this is a backtrack or a reculeo or whatever ya wanna call it.
    I think the govt is very VERY carefukl making all these decisions.
    Something just doesn’t fit here,at least for me.I don’t think it’s because of el pueblo protesting.Again,remember who you’re dealing with.

    I’m not ready to celebrate anyhow,enjoy it if ya wanna but heed my words mortal one


  4. Well, he says Venezuela is a democracy too, what can you ask of him?

    But anyway, for him it is a veto, he sends it back and it will never be returned by the new Assembly. Nice point though, duly noted in my post. I do read it a lot, pero me estoy embruteciendo con ella.


  5. I’m not a conspiracy theorist, but I think this was a well devised plot to preempt attacks against the rest of the ‘Legislative Package’ and its multiple implications. They knew what they were doing from the very beginning.


  6. It’s like watching children play with an teenager, an evil sociopathic bully..

    something like 7 new laws and measures passed by the lame duck AN. CH negates 2 of them and el pueblo thinks he’s backing off, and they go back to watching baseball. Never mind the devaluation, the internet, and all the other BS.. university students don’t need to take the streets.. the future is looking better already!

    Feliz año nuevo!


    • It’s not about not caring after this. But when you’ve spent more than 10 years with a semi-dictator in power, things like this are a cause to celebrate. Because it means Chavez is getting more democratic? Of course not! It’s because it serves as a kind of barometro with which we can tell how comfortable he feels with his base.

      In this case specifically, I think it shows that the student community still has tangible political power.


  7. Recuerden, la ley habilitante es como un machete, se necesitaba paja para ver que tan bueno va cortar, ya vemos cuales leyes eran para eso…

    Recule? jajaja! piensen mas bien porque esta probando el machete primero….

    Ya los chavistas hablando de que tan grande es su lider…que estupidez soberana! un ladron que te iba a robar a algo a punta de pistola pero dijo que no a ultimo momento todavia sigue siendo criminal! y por eso hay que ser agradecidos????? CH todavia esta haciendo lo que le de la gana…


  8. Using the warlike, bombastic parlance of “revolucionarios”, I’d call this a “tactical retreat”, not that for a second I believe he grew some respect for somebody else’s rights.


  9. I agree with loroferoz. This is NOT an opposition victory. It can only be a victory if they managed to achieve something that wasn’t going to happen without their effort. I would argue Chavez always intended to backtrack on some of the new laws to achieve his main objective with as minimum fuss as possible – the Ley Habilitante. The tactical retreat is a classic and oft-repeated Chavez strategy.


    • JC, I would have liked the opposition to mock Chavez’ claim that he is a “democrat” just because he vetoes his own laws, and that his statement shows how he does not even grasp the meaning of democracy. That Venezuelans should not be made into fools ruled by the whims of a caudillo, ilustrado or not. And that the Ley Habilitante is still a disgrace, and that him and AN members who voted it ought to be ashamed of themselves.

      ..But who knows, maybe they said it already!


    • Called in other circles and another country “the whoremonger’s strategy”…

      Only this time, the whoremonger got rebuffed when he tried to let his hand fall on a… sensitive area and felt that further response would be sharper.

      You know, he still needs to pass for a perfect gentleman (a “democrat”). But his hands are still on other sensitive areas.


  10. Remember he came back from Brazil in quite a rush after the Rousseff fiasco when she said in her speech he was a dictator (indirectly) and meeting with Clinton when he was supposed to meet Dilma first…so he leaves before the inauguration banquet takes places and now back in Venezuela we do not hear from him in a few days and now he comes out with this mediatic garbage to show the world he is a caring president instead of the commanding monster in chief as portrayed in Brazil.

    Solves a lot of problems that soap opera he played on the media yesterday and the opo celebrating something they never earned as said before….god we are really screwed as a country…


    • So the appropriate thing for the opposition to do was to … reject this? Denounce this as an unconstitutional move by the President? Go to the OAS and decry the vetoing of the University Law? March against the veto?


    • Well, Maria Corina Machado said as much a few weeks ago.

      Basically, Chavez announces at 9 pm or so that he’s vetoing the law, and three hours later we are already blasting the opposition’s response as inadequate, “celebrating something they never earned…” ? Makes no sense.


    • In that, I completely agree with you. And kudos to Machado for saying so! I hope it got a lot of coverage in the national media.


    • Juan, no, it is not about victory or failure. It’s neither.
      We can only say: what’s next?

      Again, I use the chess story: when you are playing chess, specially with a tricky bastard in front of a judge who is that bastard’s lover, you don’t get excited because he draws back his rook or you take a pawn. You do not start to cry to the public you got 2 points and send kissies to your sweet heart and stand up and do a quick round raising your hands signalling victory.

      There was a move. You need to keep your eyes on the chessboard or at the very least make sure the other is not moving pieces without noticing and above all you need to be thinking 20 steps ahead.

      Chavez is a moron when it comes to the most basic facts of economics and science and all those things you or me studied. He is not stupid when it comes to power, though, specially in a country where people have such a superficial understanding of rule of law and democracy (piss off the Latinometer thingie).


  11. It is an opposition victory short-term, with potential long-term negative implications unless people are careful. Surely, when Chavez vetoes the 2012 election–or its funding– the argument will be that “you didn’t object to him using this power when you agreed with the result!”.

    Of course the two situations are not analagous. But his use of the decree power in 2011 is not analagous to earlier versions, either, but the argument is regularly made that this is the fourth time he’s been granted these powers, and few objected before.

    If I were a university student in Venezuela, I’d be congratulating myself–but carefully.


  12. Actually, what the US Constitution says was almost exactly copied by ours. The veto doesn’t actually exist. The procedure itself might allow the US president to block it temporarily.

    Article I, Section VII, Paragraph 2:

    Every Bill which shall have passed the House of Representatives and the Senate, shall, before it become a Law, be presented to the President of the United States; If he approve he shall sign it, but if not he shall return it, with his Objections to that House in which it shall have originated, who shall enter the Objections at large on their Journal, and proceed to reconsider it. If after such Reconsideration two thirds of that House shall agree to pass the Bill, it shall be sent, together with the Objections, to the other House, by which it shall likewise be reconsidered, and if approved by two thirds of that House, it shall become a Law. But in all such Cases the Votes of both Houses shall be determined by Yeas and Nays, and the Names of the Persons voting for and against the Bill shall be entered on the Journal of each House respectively. If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten Days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the Same shall be a Law, in like Manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its Return, in which Case it shall not be a Law.


    • “almost exactly copied by ours.”

      Um … not to burst your analogy, but there is the “two thirds” part … no small difference that one.


    • Well JC, the original article in Spanish says:

      “La Asamblea Nacional decidirá acerca de los aspectos planteados por el Presidente o Presidenta de la República, por mayoría absoluta de los diputados y diputadas presentes y le remitirá la ley para la promulgación.”

      “Mayoría absoluta” does mean 2/3 majority as opposed to simple majority which means 50+1.

      In any event, both articles are remarkably similar and neither actually states a veto as an actual power of the President.


    • By the way, the provision of both constitutions refer to whats known as a “veto override” which both the Congress and the AN are enabled to do. That is, consider the President’s objections and disregard them, by 2/3 majority vote.


    • You’re a little bit confused about “Mayoría Absoluta”, PseudoI – that does mean 50%+1. 2/3rds would be “mayoría calificada.”


  13. Nothing to add in the area of constitutional law, just wanted to chime in to say how GODDAMN HILARIOUS Aporrea has become these days.

    From this…

    …To this

    All on Chavez’s say-so. It’s like the Three Stooges meets 1984. Quote of the day? Lubrio’s “Por eso es que nos llaman focas”.


  14. It is a victory because, unless he dares use the Enabling Bill to approve the LU, he has no way of passing it now. Thus, once again the universities survive the slaughter in the sense that they will not be taken over by the Government. The problem is that I bet their budget will be cut and they will continue drowning.


    • It’s not a victory because the Venezuelan people are like Freddy Mercury: “nothing really matters to meeeee”

      We should be focusing on what comes next and think several steps ahead and have plan C, D and E, so that “si no lo coje el chingo, lo coje el sin nariz”


  15. I think is a matter of “machete” testing :
    1) He doesn’t sign.
    2)Assembly “simple” majority says : You must sign…
    3)Voilá: No more 2/3ds.. He say´s Yes, TSJ says HCh is right, there is no such thing as 2/3rds….


  16. As I see it, this has two sides:

    – good things come out, as the new law and the VAT will not be applied.
    – but they are achieved in an unlawful manner since the president does not have that power.
    – since no one will ask him to implement the law of universities and the VAT because either you are chavista and hence do not critize chavez, or you are part of opposition and do not like the new law and VAT, Hugo Rafael has a new power. He can now veto any law he doesn’t like!
    – the new national assembly has been put useless the same day it was installed.

    To me, this nothing short of a coup!


  17. I think he did a “pocket veto”. In the US, is when the President veto a law but the Congress is not in session. So the bill failed and it would not become law.

    If any Bill shall not be returned by the President within ten days (Sundays excepted) after it shall have been presented to him, the same shall be a Law, in like manner as if he had signed it, unless the Congress by their Adjournment prevent its return, in which case it shall not be a Law.

    It should be the same in our Constitution, because it is not the same National Assembly which approved the law. But, that is a matter that should be resolved by the Supreme Court


  18. This is not a victory because the opposition will not protest this, and they have now given precidence to veto power of the president. Now he will say they didn’t say anything when it was something they wanted, and they will say something when it isn’t. Or if they speak up now he will say that they are going against the people’s will.

    It is a defeat, just Venezuelan culture being what it is, is happy getting something no matter if it is against the law, just as long as they get what they want. Rule of law is not something respected or cherished by most Venezuelans, Chavez knows this, and uses this to his advantage. The opposition is too dumb to figure out a proper game plan against him. It is that stupidity that will mean that Chavez will keep on winning in the years to come, no matter how bad the country is.


  19. JC

    I didn’t say it was a defeat. I said it wasn’t a victory.

    The opposition can’t legitimately claim Chavez’ reversal as a success. He always planned to do it. And he’s done this so many times before:
    – Security law. Reversed.
    – International Co-operation law. Drafts discussed since 2006? and only now promulgated.
    – Social law or whatever it was called. Still at draft.
    – Education law. Hasn’t introduced the changes yet as far as I can see.
    – Taking things to the brink with Colombia only to backtrack.
    – Slating the US only to act all nice when he’s in their presence.

    These things will come around again, and he might well decide to take things further the next time. But his basic tactic is to come out with a heap of explosive policies, then backtrack a few of them to get the rest through without any significant problems.

    Whether the opposition should claim victory or not is a different issue. But in my opinion we can’t claim the opposition is now powerful enough to have any serious effect on Chavez’ policies.


  20. All your references, cultural or otherwise, are gringo; you must be so unhappy not living in the US or under the US


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