- On December 17, parliament gave Chavez enabling law power
in response to torrential rains and severe floods that ravaged Venezuelan
communities, killed at least 35, destroyed over 5,000 homes, and displaced
about 120,000 or more people in 11 of the country's 23 states. He asked
for one year. Parliament gave him 18 months to deal with the crisis.
- National Assembly President Cilia Flores said it was
needed to help "people who are relying" on him to help. "So
that they can have their street, their highways, public services, electricity,
everything to live in dignity, we are going to hear (their) proposals and
concerns," then respond accordingly.
- More on how it works below. Despite opposition and media
criticism (in Venezuela and America), it's not about seizing dictatorial
powers, nor has Chavez done it since taking office in February 1999.
- No matter. On December 14, New York Times writer (and
vocal Chavez critic) Simon Romero headlined, "Chavez Seeks Decree
- By so doing, he "opens a new phase of tension between
(himself) and his critics." Provea director Mariano Alvarado said:
"This measure reflects the contradictions of a government that speaks
about the participation of the people in politics, but ends up adopting
measures that ignore the will of the people."
- On December 14, Wall Street Journal writer Dan Molinski
headlined, "Venezuela Opposition Denounces Chavez Move," saying:
- He's attacking democracy and "aim(ing) to demoralize
an opposition" with more members when parliament reconvenes on January
5. Primero Justicia, a leading opposition group, said he's "perversely
using the human tragedy from the rains to justify these sweeping powers."
- On December 17, AP reporter Fabiola Sanchez headlined,
"Venezuela congress grants Chavez decree powers," saying:
- "Chavez opponents condemned the move as a power
grab, saying the law gives him a blank check to rule without consulting
- False, and they know it. Enabling law power includes
well-defined checks and balances.
- How It Works
- Enabling law power is legal but limited. Chavez used
it three previous times. Four earlier presidents used it. Venezuela's 1961
Constitution authorized it. So did the 1999 one under Article 203, stating:
- "Organic laws are those designated as such by this
Constitution, those enacted to organize public powers or developing constitutional
rights, and those which serve as a normative framework for other laws,"
including amendments. A two-thirds legislative super-majority is needed
before beginning debate. Measures are then sent to the Supreme Tribunal
of Justice's Constitutional Division "for a ruling on the constitutionality
of their organic status."
- "Enabling laws are those enacted by a three fifths
(National Assembly member) vote to establish guidelines, purposes and framework
for matters that are being delegated to the President of the Republic,
with the rank and force of law."
- They're not dictatorial. They must conform to constitutional
provisions and restraints. They may only be issued in National Assembly
named areas within the time period allowed. In some cases, the Supreme
Court must rule on their constitutionality.
- Moreover, Constitutional law lets ordinary Venezuelans
rescind what's enacted if at least 10% of voters request it. A national
referendum majority then decides up or down. For decree law, it's 5%, a
tougher standard to reverse unwanted measures.
- In addition, parliament, by majority vote, may change
or rescind decree laws any time it wishes. They serve to strengthen, not
subvert democracy. Critics disagree but offer no proof. The last time Chavez
used enabling law power was in 2007 to:
- -- make state institutions more efficient, transparent,
honest, and allow more citizen participation;
- -- reform the civil service;
- -- eliminate corruption;
- -- advance the "ideals of social justice and economic
independence" through a new social and economic model based on more
equitable wealth distribution in areas of health care, education, and social
- -- modernize Venezuela's financial sector, including
banking, insurance and tax policy;
- -- upgrade science and technology areas to benefit all
sectors of society;
- -- reform public health, prisons, identification, migration
regulations, and the judiciary to improve citizen and judicial security;
- -- upgrade Venezuela's infrastructure, transport, and
- -- improve the nation's military;
- -- establish territorial organization norms in states
and communities relating to voting and constituency size; and
- -- permit greater state control over the nation's energy
- It's by far the most important, vital to protect, used
for all Venezuelans, and kept from letting Big Oil exploit it for themselves.
- In 2001, he used enabling laws for land reform, improved
credit access for small entrepreneurs, greater equity for small vs. large
fishers, and increased hydrocarbon state revenue. Its now for Venezuela's
flood victims, what earlier political/oligarch cabals never imagined or
their US counterparts for the last 30 years.
- America exploits security threats, terror attacks, economic
crises, competing ideologies, tectonic political or financial shifts, and
natural disasters for greater concentrated wealth, power, and repressive
control. As a result, wars are waged, jobs lost, wages and benefits cut,
and freedoms lost in the name of national security.
- Former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel
admitted it, saying: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.
They (offer) opportunities to do big things" for America's aristocracy,
not workers to be exploited for their benefit.
- In his 1962 book "Capitalism and Freedom,"
Milton Friedman endorsed the idea, saying:
- "only a crisis - actual or perceived - produces
real change. When a crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on
the ideas that are lying around....our basic function (is) to develop alternatives
to existing (progressive) policies (and have them ready to implement when)
the impossible becomes politically" possible.
- In other words, disaster capitalism or "shock doctrine"
opportunities should be exploited so big money can make more of it through
greater wealth transfers from the majority to them. More recently, it worked
post-Katrina and after the fall 2007 current economic crisis erupted.
- If responsibly used, enabling law power is mirror opposite.
It benefits all Venezuelans, not solely rich ones. Chavez used it for greater
social justice, what Americans haven't gotten since Ronald Reagan declared
war on New Deal reforms. Hopefully, Chavez will again prove his critics
wrong, getting aid to needy flood victims left homeless by the devastating
- Enabling Law power lets him address "vital and urgent
human needs resulting from the social conditions of poverty and from rains,
landslides, floods, and other events produced by the environmental problem."
He may also "design a new geographic regionalization that reduces
the elevated levels of demographic concentration in certain regions....regulate
the creation of new communities and....establish a more adequate distribution
and social use of urban and rural lands (to facilitate) install(ing) basic
services and habitat that humanizes community relations."
- In other words, he may address the current crisis by
delivering aid to people and areas affected. That's how government should
work, not by exploiting disasters for profit and regressive social change,
the way America does it ruthlessly.
- On December 17, Venezuela Analysis contributor Edward
Ellis headlined, "Venezuelan Government Plans to Increase Agricultural
Productivity after Floods," saying:
- Chavez "is implementing a reconstruction plan to
provide impulse to the nation's farmers and agricultural production. More
than 1,500 small farmers from the area south of Lake Maraciabo in (Merida
and Zulia) states will be (helped by) a new government plan to recover
underutilized farm (land) and rebuild agricultural productivity....after
heavy rains have destroyed harvests and displaced thousands of residents."
- He also plans other reconstructive measures, social justice
ones when they're most needed. His critics call it a power grab. Recipients,
of course, are grateful.
- Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago and can be reached at
firstname.lastname@example.org. Also visit his blog site at sjlendman.blogspot.com
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