Updated 10 months, 2 weeks ago

Maduro seeks to unseat assembly to stay in power

Venezuela's constitutional crisis took a turn towards the bizarre this week, when President Nicolas Maduro said he would consider a move to shorten the term of the National Assembly, which is trying to initiate a recall vote to oust the President.

“If I see this [the initiative] as the possibility to clear the way of coup d’ etat attempts by using the National Assembly, I will activate it, if the people accompany me. I promise you that,” said Maduro, live on state television.

In a country becoming used to the even most bizarre, even the Opposition was shocked by Maduro's move to cut the Assembly’s term -- which runs until January 6th, 2021 -- to just 60 days.

“I think it’s pathetic. Maduro does not want to undergo a recall vote but they want the Assembly to be subjected to one? For one, Maduro is already at the mid-period point where a recall can be activated and the Assembly is not. But also, a shortening of the Assembly’s term will have to be approved by the Assembly itself, and I don’t see that happening,” said Tamara Adrian, a lawyer, and a member of the opposition’s super-majority in the National Assembly.

“Maduro and Escarra just do not want to understand the people’s will, expressed December 6th,” she concluded.

The CNE (the government-controlled electoral authority) has been dragging its feet in organizing the Maduro recall, opposition leader Henrique Capriles said again Thursday.

Major elections for state governor, legislatures and city mayors are due to be held this year.

Analyst Luis Vicente Leon said that he expects Maduro, the government and chavismo to lose any upcoming election, including a possible presidential recall and the state elections.

MYSTERIOUS PROPONENT

The man who proposed that Maduro shorten the term of the Assembly is Hernan Escarra, a lawyer that assisted Hugo Chavez in drafting the current Constitution in 1999 but later publicly opposed Chavez, for several years, before crossing back to the Maduro camp in 2014, after Chavez died.

Escarra, who holds no public office and is not a government official, made the proposal to shorten the Assembly’s term alongside Maduro during a live television broadcast. Maduro theatrically accepted, standing up and clapping as soon as Escarra announced the initiative.

After years in the opposition, Escarra is now one of Maduro’s top spokesmen, specializing in attacking the legal points of the opposition’s strategy to recall Maduro. The portly lawyer, always in a dark suit and tie, appears almost every day on state television, speaking out against the opposition.

Already, the opposition controlled Assembly has passed a law that seeks to regulate the referendum vote against Maduro, whose terms end in 2019. Maduro is expected to challenge the law through the Supreme Court, just as he has done with every law passed by the opposition super majority in the Assembly, the first in the country’s legislative history.

The current Assembly won a landslide vote on December 6th, winning 112 lawmakers or more than two thirds of the seats available, and leaving Maduro’s lawmakers with only 55 lawmakers, the first time chavismo is a clear minority in the remade unicameral legislature since 1999.

The 112 opposition lawmakers were elected with almost 8 million popular votes -- to the government’s 5.8 million -- which in theory means Maduro, who won with around 7 million votes, can be unseated in a recall.

Latin American Herald Tribune |