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VENEZUELA
Amnesty bill declared unconstitutional
Latinamerica Press
4/19/2016
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Government confronts opposition controlled Parliament and limits its power.

Two weeks after the Parliament, controlled by the opposition, approved the Amnesty and National Reconciliation Law, the Supreme Court Constitutional Chamber (TSJ) declared the law unconstitutional on Apr.11 with which the opposition expected to release 78 “political prisoners” and hundreds of “people persecuted and in exile,” according to lawmaker Delsa Solórzano who pushed for the initiative.

The law covers events from 1999 — including the coup attempt of 2002 against then president Hugo Chávez (1999-2013) and the demonstrations against the government held in 2014 — to the date when the law is enacted, and proposes to annul the criminal sanctions imposed on some 50 crimes among which fraud linked to housing construction, damages to installations of the power grid, hoarding and speculation of food and medical supplies, possession and trafficking of arms and explosives, and drug trafficking in smaller quantities, among others, are included.

On Mar. 29, after learning of the approval of the law, President Nicolás Maduro announced that he would not enact it and would send it to the TSJ for their evaluation.

“They are approving a law to protect murderers, criminals, drug dealers and terrorists, for sure. Be certain that this law will not go through, caballero [sir], let it be known by the national and international right wing, laws to protect terrorists and criminals will not go, they will not pass through here, whatever they do,” Maduro said. “That law is illegal and criminal from the constitutional point of view, and in the use of my powers I will guarantee that I will do everything I have to do to protect the Constitution, the right to justice, the rights of the victims.”

According to the government, the law favors impunity to those responsible for the 43 deaths that occurred during the protests in 2014.

Following the overwhelming victory by the opposition in the parliamentary elections this past Dec. 5, the government named 13 pro government judges to the TSJ, and appointed Susana Barreiro as Public Defender, the judge who sentenced opposition leader Leopoldo López to more than 13 years in prison. Also, Maduro has installed the so called National Communal Parliament with a mandate to “strengthen the power of the people” and said that it would constitute “a legislative body of the people from the bases.”

Since the new National Assembly took up its duties on Jan.5, the TSJ has issued resolutions that diminish the power of the Legislative branch, in particular its capacity to exert control over the rest of the public authorities.

Energy crisis
The tug-of-war between Maduro and the opposition in the legislature is taking place in the midst of an energy crisis that has generated power outages and water rationing. On Apr. 7, as part of a special plan that families and businesses have to comply with, to save electrical usage, the president decreed that all Fridays in April and May would be non-working days for the public sector.

“We are going to have long weekends,” Maduro said.

Also, the Minister of University Education, Science and Technology, Jorge Arreaza, announced that effective May 1 the official time zone will shift forward 30 minutes, thus reversing the measures that were put in place in December 2007.

“The decision that the president [Maduro] has taken is to go back to four hours behind Greenwich Mean Time,” Arreaza said. “It’ll be as simple as moving the clock forward a half-hour; this will allow us to enjoy more daylight, and it won’t get dark so early.”

The energy crisis deepened this year as a consequence of the drought brought on by the El Niño phenomenon, which is limiting the output production of the hydroelectric plants.

Nevertheless, if residential use, which is 40 percent of the total consumption, is not reduced, the measures taken will not be enough, leaving open the possibility to deepen power rationing.

The El Guri hydroelectric plant, located in the state of Bolívar and which supplies 65 percent of the electricity used in the country, is now at its lowest historical level. The remaining 35 percent of the electricity is provided by thermoelectric systems.

According to the Minister of Electric Energy, Luis Motta Domínguez, the water level of the El Guri dam has dropped 30 meters, the lowest level recorded in the history of the hydroelectric plant that started operation in 1978.

“Together with the terrible consequences brought on by the El Niño phenomenon, we must reiterate that 40 percent of the energy consumption in Venezuela comes from the residential sector because of the excessive use of air conditioners present in homes,” Motta said, making an appeal “to the people’s conscience and to use energy in the proper way.” —Latinamerica Press.


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