Democratic Institutionality in Venezuela: Milestones
This timeline presents the succession of important events that have occurred in recent years in Venezuela, which show the crisis of democratic institutionality that the country is facing.
The main events since December 2015, with the inauguration of the National Assembly, considered the last institution of national public power with democratic legitimacy, until August 2021, with the dialogue and cooperation table formed by the government and the opposition, with international mediation, to seek a coordinated and joint solution to the political, economic and social crisis, economic and social crisis.
Parliamentary Elections in Venezuela.
December 6, 2015
The opposition obtained 112 positionsfrom the 167 deputies of the National Assembly.
After the election and the final vote count, the opposition obtained 112 positions (109 for the Democratic Unity Table and 3 for indigenous representation) of the 167 deputies of the National Assembly, while the national government, through the Great Polo Patriotico, obtained the remaining 55 positions, which meant losing the parliamentary majority held for 15 years.
After knowing these results, 12 magistrates of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) requested their early retirement in a framework of little institutional clarity. This gave rise to the outgoing National Assembly (with a majority of deputies related to the government) appointing the new judges of the highest judicial institution in Venezuela.
The Supreme Court of Justice suspended a group of elected indigenous deputies.
By accepting a writ of protection that asked to annul the results of the elections in the state of Amazonas, the highest court annulled the proclamation of a group of indigenous parliamentarians from this region, considering that their appointment was the product of vote manipulation, and the alleged violation of the constitutional rights to vote and political participation.
Although the decision of the Supreme Court of Justice was provisional and was subject to the outcome of due judicial process, it raised concerns about leaving indigenous peoples without representation in the National Assembly.
January 11, 2016
The Supreme Court of Justice declared the National Assembly in contempt.
The Electoral Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) dismissed the authority and declared null the actions of the new composition of the National Assembly, considering it an act of contempt to accept the oath of the three previously suspended deputies and not respect the decision ordered by the highest court.
The decision to limit the exercise of the Assembly was reiterated on August 1 and September 2, 2016 by the Supreme Court, and led to it assuming multiple powers assigned to the Legislative Power in the National Constitution, such as declaring itself the competent authority to control the national budget, and to receive the memory and account of the President, or create mixed public companies.
March 28 and 29, 2017
The Supreme Court of Justice lifted the parliamentary immunity of opposition deputies.
The Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice adopted decisions 155 and 156, which extended its power over several competencies of the Legislative Branch and suspended the powers of the National Assembly. It granted extensive discretionary powers to the Executive Branch.
These actions provoked 4 months of massive protests throughout the country.
These popular demonstrations in rejection of the institutional crisis were violently repressed by the State security forces and armed civilian groups and left 133 people dead, 4 thousand wounded, more than 5 thousand arbitrarily detained and 600 civilians brought before the military criminal jurisdiction.
May 1, 2017
The President called for a National Constituent Assembly.
In the midst of the deep political, economic and social crisis, the president signed an executive decree that called for a Constituent Assembly to draft a new constitution that was not drafted.
Despite massive questioning about the legitimacy and motivations of the call, the Supreme Court of Justice validated the presidential decree without holding a popular referendum.
January 10, 2019
The President renewed his mandate as established by the Constitution.
He was reelected in a framework of abstentions, lack of pluralism and electoral irregularities.
The presidential oath of office was taken before the Supreme Court of Justice, and not before the National Assembly, as required by the Constitution, because it was accused of "contempt".
June 5 and 12, 2020
The Supreme Court of Justice was attributed constitutional powers of the National Assembly and the Electoral Power.
The TSJ granted itself new powers corresponding to Parliament, which deepened the weakening of the rule of law.
On June 5, after ratifying the figure of contempt of the National Assembly and ignoring its legislative authority, the highest court was granted the power to appoint the rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE). Only 7 days later, the TSJ consummated the appointment of these authorities, among whom were two magistrates from the Supreme Court of Justice itself.
June 15 and 16, 2020
Irregularities in the process of parliamentary elections.
By means of two judicial rulings, the TSJ decided to intervene the Acción Democrática and Primero Justicia parties, two of the main opposition political parties. In both cases it suspended their boards of directors, and appointed ad hoc boards, which were authorized to use the electoral card, logo, symbols, emblems, colors and any other concept of the parties.
August 13 - 15, 2021
Dialogue between the government and the opposition.
Representatives of the national government and the opposition, called "Plataforma Unitaria de Venezuela", met in Mexico City to initiate a path of dialogue and collaboration to overcome the political, economic and social crisis the country is going through.
At the meeting, mediated by the Norwegian government, the necessary conditions were agreed upon to hold regional elections with all the necessary guarantees for both parties, and the importance of suspending international sanctions against Venezuela was underlined.
1. Democratic Institutionality
Guarantees needed to restore democratic institutions and constitutional order:
Promotion of dialogue channels between civil society and the various political actors.
Independence and balance of powers.
Political participation of the entire population without discrimination.
Mechanisms of citizen control over the actions of public authorities.
2. Justice and Judicial Independence
Guarantees for the administration and independence of Justice:
Convocations, deadlines and procedures for the selection and appointment of Supreme Court Justices.
Equal and inclusive access of the candidates to the convocations.
Participation of civil society.
Qualification of judges based on merit and professional capacity.
Increase in the number of tenured judges and reduction in the number of provisional judges.
Removal of judges (even with a provisional position) guaranteeing the due disciplinary process.
Stability in office for magistrates.
3. Violence and Citizen Security
The use of force in security operations must comply with the following principles:
Exceptionality, legality, necessity and proportionality
The investigation of complaints of human rights violations in security operations must be:
Guarantees and essential rights for groups in situations of vulnerability and discrimination.
Access to sexual and reproductive health services with a gender perspective.
Effective exercise of the sexual and reproductive rights of girls, women and pregnant people.
Social policies to combat poverty that take into account the situation of people of African descent.
Comprehensive and quality health care for children and adolescents.
5. Equality and non-discrimination
Measures aimed at recognizing the rights of all people without discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity
Repeal of laws criminalizing same-sex sexual relations.
Enactment of laws recognizing the right of trans and gender-diverse people to define their gender identity.
Legal recognition of the union and/or marriage between persons of the same sex, and of the same rights conferred to different sex couples.
6. Gender-based violence
Eradicating gender-based violence suffered by women requires:
Statistical information collected on gender violence.
Prevention, protection, investigation, sanction and reparation of all forms of violence against women.
Access to Justice without discrimination.
7. Human rights defenders
Guarantees for the defense of human rights
Recognition and decriminalization of the work of human rights defenders and organizations.