A Release Ballot for Venezuela

By Luis Manuel Aguana

The example is not mine, it is Dr. José Vicente Haro who has spent much of his time in achieving the release of dozens of political prisoners from the dungeons of the regime. To the question posed to the jurist by the media about how to execute the sentences of the legitimate Supreme Court of Justice, the answer is always the same: they are as executable as the ballots for the release of political prisoners. Why do you think there are people in Venezuela who continue to have orders from the courts to release them? Because there is a regime that is at the margin of the Rule of Law, and which has prisoners with owners: "Fulano de tal" is a prisoner of that minister, or of such a figure of the regime, and against that there is no valid release slip. The prisoner is still in prison “because I want to” to the point that his relatives hang the plasticized release slips around their necks when they visit their prisoners to bring them food, as a silent civic protest against an openly oppressive regime.

But that doesn't mean Dr. Haro, and many of his fellow human rights lawyers, will stop doing the work that needs to be done to get that release ballot that orders the jailer to put the prisoner on the street, even if he is later denied freedom.

If the first part of getting the ballot is hard, the second part of making it effective is very hard and much more difficult. But it is with tenacity and constancy, pressing and denouncing without fear that little by little many of those political prisoners have been freed, which is why Venezuelans owe an unpayable debt to human rights defenders like Dr. Haro. It is difficult and insufficient to obtain a release ticket for a political prisoner in Venezuela but absolutely necessary. And that is precisely the case of Venezuela as a country.

When the circumstance of a power vacuum in Venezuela arises as a consequence of a firm sentence condemning Nicolás Maduro by the Legitimate TSJ in exile, it becomes urgent and indispensable to appoint a new government, even if it is not effective at the time of appointment, precisely for the same reason that release ballots are worthless papers in the country, but not for that reason do not stop doing the work that is necessary to achieve them, because they are indispensable for the release of the prisoner.

This "release ballot" would constitute a sentence of the legitimate Supreme Court for the designation of a National Emergency Government.  Difficult to achieve but absolutely necessary for the re-establishment of the rule of law. However, it is also absolutely innocuous if one does not work to make it effective. That is why Articles 333 and 350 of the Constitution come to our aid: all Venezuelans, whether or not they are invested with authority, have the duty to collaborate for the re-establishment of the effective validity of the Constitution, and to ignore any regime that contravenes democratic values, principles and guarantees or undermines human rights.

Although we have recognized the need for this direct appointment of a government by the legitimate Supreme Court of Justice, we have also said that this appointment would be that of a government with a scope absolutely limited to two fundamental tasks: a) to coordinate the implementation of humanitarian aid for Venezuelans with the backing of the International Community; and b) the implementation of a popular consultation, once the regime of Nicolás Maduro has been displaced, that asks citizens such transcendental issues as: to declare dissolved the illegitimate Constituent Assembly that is in function and its decisions are not valid, the convocation by popular initiative to an original Constituent Process by popular initiative that re-institutionalizes the country through the discussion of a new Social Pact, proposing a new constitutional text, and that the Government designated by the legitimate TSJ is ratified or that the new constituent designates a different one after its installation, so that it can take care of governing and resolving the urgent crisis of the Venezuelans and stabilize the country in all areas.

In other words, immediately after the exit of the regime, let the Venezuelan people decide about the present and future of the country, and not the usual political cogollos who decide our future without our participation, as has been done so many times in Venezuelan history.  We are not asking for something irrational. We are proposing a clear roadmap that will be known by everyone before anything happens. That would be the "release ballot for Venezuela" that we are requesting from the legitimate TSJ. Making it effective is the second part of this story.

On the other hand, there is the myth based on the false appreciation that because we held a consultation on 16J-2017 "it is no longer necessary to consult" the people of Venezuela. Nothing could be further from the truth. On 16J-2017 the people exercised a right by trying to stop the unconstitutional constituent process of the regime and were not served. That was the main reason for that consultation when civil society formulated it and it was later modified by the political forces in the National Assembly by incorporating the questions related to the renewal of public powers, with the demand for a new government.

The fact that those who had the responsibility to obey that mandate from the urns have not taken the necessary steps to bring about that change, in no way invalidates all the consultations that are necessary to conduct the serious political crisis in which the country finds itself.  In fact, it is now even more obligatory to do so than before as the Venezuelan situation worsens. It's about time we Venezuelans got rid of the fear of consulting the people about matters that concern them, that's precisely what democracy is all about. And that is exactly what we are trying to rescue from a decision of the legitimate Supreme Court which, according to the simile described, we have called here "a release ballot for Venezuela. The Magistrates of that Court will decide how that ballot ends up coming out. But that is what we ask, that the Venezuelans be the ones to decide, and I am going to explain why.

What we are asking for has never been to the liking of those within our ruling class who seek to return to the same thing that was done in politics until 1998, after the criminals leave power. Power vacuums are filled instantly.  Without a clear roadmap that includes the people in the decisions before a political change in Venezuela, once someone mounts for some process that is unleashed after the castro-chavistas-maduristas-comunistas leave, there would come a stage that no one will be able to control because the 1999 Constitution has no protections.

A new electoral process cannot be called in Venezuela, not only because the voting system is flawed, but also because the country must first be re-institutionalized. Imagine a government of Henry Ramos Allup or any of these dinosaurs of the past doing the same thing Chavez did without the control of a Senate because the 1999 Constitution allows it: to name the Generals he wants, to give away the money of the Venezuelans because the President is the owner of the Public Treasury, to create the Ministries at his own will in television programs, or to put his opponents in prison because there is no independent judiciary. That has to be fixed before an Emergency Government delivers for elections. If that is not done with a consultation of the people that convenes the constituent and debates a new institutionality for the country for the new generations, someone should explain to me how it is done and we will gladly talk about something else.

That is why a new constitutional text is indispensable before even thinking about new elections. That is why a Constituent process is necessary. They are not the deliriums of some crazy people obsessed by a constituent as they insist on affirming in order to disqualify the necessary participation and presence of the Venezuelan people in the critical decisions that affect their immediate future.

How that release ballot for Venezuela will become effective once it is issued, would paradoxically be less difficult than in the case of a political prisoner locked up in El Helicoide. And why?  Because that ballot would be effective from outside Venezuela, with the help of the countries suffering from the Venezuelan problem, starting with the United States and Colombia, which have stated that they will do whatever is necessary to help recover democracy and freedom in Venezuela. Once that ballot is issued, events will occur on their own, because at that moment those countries will know what will happen, how it will happen and with whom it will happen. Hence the importance of an immediate decision by the legitimate Supreme Court of Justice and the formulation of the route they decide definitively.  We have already proposed a perfectly identified one. We hope that in the one they end up deciding, they will not leave out the Venezuelan people.

Caracas, September 10, 2018