Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Waiting for Hugo

Reading the Venezuelan government's account of the legislative debate about Hugo Chávez, you can boil the argument down to several points:

First, if you argue about invoking article 233 (which refers to calling new elections), you will be accused of fomenting a coup.

Second, if you argue about anything, you will accused of fomenting a coup. Paraguay is mentioned, although in that case everyone at least knew where the president was and that he had the capacity to make decisions.

Third, mentioning article 233 means you are trying to invalidate the October presidential election. It is important to note, however, that in October Venezuelans voted for someone billed as recovering and quite clearly not dead or indefinitely unconscious.

Fourth, if you demand that Chávez come to Venezuela on January 10th, then you are ignoring his doctor's orders. The fact that Venezuelans do not know who these doctors are beyond the fact that they are Cuban is not mentioned.

Now, some on the right deserve criticism about coups because in fact they supported one in 2002. Nonetheless, citizens in a democracy deserve to be told the condition of their elected president. A month's disappearance with no indication of return is an embarrassment.


Justin Delacour 12:40 PM  

I think that a serious examination of the institutional implications of these proceedings in the National Assembly would show that Greg's arguments are fundamentally unsound. Such arguments reflect a misunderstanding of Venezuelan politics and the relationship between Chavez and his political base. Invoking article 233 at this point would be a much greater threat to institutionality than using article 231 for the simple reason that a huge segment of the society, including some opposition voters, would view it as illegitimate to proceed with another election before it is clear that the president-elect is definitively incapacitated.

To argue that it is some sort of travesty of justice that people don't know who the president's doctors are is particularly bizarre, as there's probably no precedent for that either. Bottom line is that both the president-elect and the vice president made it clear that this operation posed risks to the president-elect's life and that, under such conditions, the vice president becomes acting head of state until such time as it becomes clear as to whether Chavez can return to the presidency. This is not an institutional crisis, as it will become clear soon enough as to whether or not the president-elect is able to recuperate or a new election must be held.

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