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Post-Chávez Dictatorship Shows its Face in the National Assembly

By: María Teresa Romero - @mt_romero - Mar 26, 2014, 10:59 am

EspañolIt is clear that the presence of Venezuelan Congresswoman María Corina Machado in the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) has caused President Nicolás Maduro, and Diosdado Cabello — an active military officer, president of the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), and president of the National Assembly — to lose their minds.

Machado had been invited by the Panamanian government to expose the reality of the situation that Venezuelans are going through. However, the Venezuelan government successfully exerted all its influence on its Caribbean and South American allies to block her right to speak out.

Both Bolivarian post-Chavismo strongmen know very well that even without being able to talk in the OAS, the opposition lawmaker achieved unprecedented political and media impact. Machado was accompanied by student leader Carlos Vargas and Rosa Orozco, the mother of one of the students killed by the National Guard during the protests. OAS officials expelled both from their headquarters at the behest of the Venezuelan delegation.

If, before this event, international attention was focused on what has unfolded in Venezuela since early February, that focus must have zoomed in even more — thanks to this new diplomatic blunder from the Maduro government, a blunder shamefully worsened by Venezuela’s representative to the OAS, Roy Chaderton. It is no coincidence that during the press conference given by Machado that day, the website of the OAS collapsed by the amount of traffic it generated, something never seen before.

This is not the first time that Diosdado Cabello, who has just been reinstated into the Armed Forces and promoted to army captain — and who, according to Article 330 of the Constitution, should be in active military service, not in the position of president of the National Assembly—has assaulted and sought the impeachment of lawmaker Machado. In April last year, he and the parliamentary directive not only stood idly by, they did not even let her talk. Machado was powerless to defend herself against the brutal physical aggression she received before their very eyes, at the hands of Deputy Nancy Ascencio, member of the PSUV. As if this was not enough, Ascencio attacked Machado again in a domestic airport.

On March 18, Cabello asked members of the National Assembly to vote on a proposal by Deputy Tania Díaz, also of the PSUV, to ask the attorney general for an investigation in order to take away Machado’s immunity for her alleged “terrorist” activities, also accusing her — without proof, as always — of “murdering” the deceased during the month and a half of opposition protests.

To make matters worse, on March 24, from the administrative headquarters of the assembly, Diosdado Cabello dismissed María Corina Machado, the lawmaker elected with the highest number of votes in the National Assembly (235,259 votes). Her crime: accepting the opportunity to be alternate representative of Panama to the OAS, in order to speak before the international organization.

For this decision, the military officer cited Article 191 of the Venezuelan constitution. It prohibits members of the National Assembly to simultaneously work in other governmental functions and to accept recognition from foreign governments.

However, as pointed out by the deputy herself from Lima, Perú, where she attended an event of the International Freedom Foundation (FIL), chaired by Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa, “the directorship of the National Assembly has no power to dismiss a deputy.”

Indeed, according to the National Constitution in force, a member of the National Assembly can only be removed by death, resignation, for a recall of their mandate, or by a judgment of the Supreme Court. Moreover, a deputy who only acts as coordinator of debates, as a provisional representative of the licensed body, is not at all entitled to subjectively accuse another one of “treason.”

Moreover, the constitutional provision cited by Cabello does not apply to the case of Machado, because she was only accredited by Panama to the OAS in order to expose before the representatives of the member states the massive violations of human rights perpetrated in the country by the Maduro regime. This is a practice with precedents in the organization. Consider just two examples: in 2009, Venezuela ceded its seat in the OAS to Patricia Rodas, foreign minister of former President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras, and in 1979, Panama ceded its seat in the body to the Sandinista opposition for them to denounce the then dictator Somoza.

This expulsion of Deputy Machado is just a new encroachment against the popular will, another persecution of Venezuelan political opposition, and another flagrant violation of the 1999 Constitution by the government of Nicolás Maduro and representatives subject to the will of the national executive.

This abuse of power and authority, this clearly unconstitutional and dictatorial action, highlights the democratic struggle of the Venezuelan opposition. It also deepens the dangerous path of polarization, lawlessness, chaos, and a significant civil conflict.

That is why every day, more Venezuelans ask for Maduro’s resignation, and advocate, as a possible solution, the formation of a transitional government. As Monsignor Ovidio Pérez Morales, archbishop-bishop emeritus of Los Teques, has rightly said, that “would open the way to solid and stable governance through the mechanisms enabled by the Constitution.”

Translated by Alan Furth.

María Teresa Romero María Teresa Romero

Romero is a journalist with a PhD in political science, specializing in international politics. She's a professor at the Central University of Venezuela, a columnist in several Venezuelan and international newspapers, and the author of several books. Follow her at @MT_romero.