Freedom House Condemns Delayed Inauguration of Hugo Chavez
Freedom House condemns as unconstitutional the decision of the Venezuelan Supreme Court and National Assembly to delay indefinitely the inauguration of Hugo Chavez to a fourth presidential term, and urges the government to provide the Venezuelan people with a clear way forward consistent with Venezuelan law.
On Tuesday, the National Assembly voted to allow Chavez's inauguration, scheduled for today, to take place in front of the Supreme Court at an unspecified later date, due to the leader's failing health and ongoing treatment in Cuba. Today, the government held a rally, attended by Bolivian President Evo Morales and Uruguayan president Josť Mujica, to affirm Chavez as their leader in absentia.
Ignoring provisions in the Constitution that require snap elections within 30 days if the president is permanently absent on Inauguration Day and prior rulings that upheld January 10 as Inauguration Day, the Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Assembly's vote was constitutional. Their decision defied Article 231, 233 and 234 of the Venezuelan constitution, which require the president be sworn in on January 10 before the National Assembly, and if not, before the Supreme Court, unless he is declared temporarily or permanently absent. All of the sitting Supreme Court justices were appointed by Chavez and his party, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, has an overwhelming majority in the National Assembly.
"The leadership in Caracas has shown a blatant disregard for the letter of the Constitution," said David J. Kramer, president of Freedom House. "The Venezuelan people deserve to know how long the inauguration will be delayed based on an independent evaluation about the state of Chavez's health. Delaying Chavez's inauguration indefinitely is an abuse of the constitutional process, and could plunge Venezuela into an institutional crisis."
According to the Inter-American Democratic Charter, to which Venezuela is a signatory, in the event that a member state has an "unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional process," any member state or the Secretary General may convene the Permanent Council for a special session and mediate to resolve the situation by offering visits and good offices.
"Member states of the OAS have a role to play in supporting the Venezuelan people to resolve the constitutional impasse," added Kramer. "Latin American countries and the OAS should heed calls by Venezuelans and help open a dialogue among all actors and chart a path forward to restore the democratic process in Venezuela."
Venezuela is rated Partly Free in the 2012 edition of the Freedom in the World and Freedom of the Net surveys and Not Free in Freedom House's Freedom of the Press 2012 survey.
To learn more about Venezuela, visit:
Freedom in the World 2012: Venezuela
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