Venezuela Weekly: Maduro Uses Supreme Court to Remake Opposition

The Maduro government is using the Supreme Court (TSJ) to marginalize the dominant opposition coalition led by National Assembly president Juan Guaidó and create a new opposition more amenable to its plans.

On Friday June 12 the TSJ went ahead and appointed the new rectors of the National Electoral Council (CNE) after declaring the National Assembly to be in “legislative omission.” The new CNE consists of three rectors from the government coalition, one from a political movement associated with the “National Dialogue Table”—the alternative dialogue space created with the Maduro government by minority opposition parties—and one from opposition party Acción Democrática (AD).

The main opposition parties, including AD, immediately said that they would not recognize the new electoral authorities and would not participate in any electoral contest that the new CNE would organize. The TSJ appointments complicate the possibility of a negotiated electoral solution, as can be seen in some of Juan Guaidó’s tweets.

The US and other countries have rejected or called Maduro to reconsider this move. The European Union (EU) expressed concerns about the TSJ decision and argued in favor of “an independent and balanced CNE”, and for electoral conditions that will enable the participation of all political parties. Despite the relatively moderate criticsm, Maduro reacted angrily and told the EU to stay away from Venezuela. The International Contact Group including also criticized TSJ actions and received a vigorous response from Maduro’s Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza.

Having reasserted Maduro’s domination of the CNE, the TSJ then proceeded to gain control of the two most important political oppositional parties. It replaced the leadership of AD as well as Primero Justicia (PJ). In both cases, the Court designated directors of dubious political credentials. For AD the new head is Bernabé Gutiérrez a long time member of the party and brother of the newly appointed member of the National Electoral Council (CNE), José Luis Gutiérrez. The existing AD leadership immediately expelled him from the party.

José Brito—one of the opposition legislators who participated in the efforts to install a parallel National Assembly leadership in January–is the new head of Primero Justicia. However, the party had expelled Brito since December due to allegations for political corruption.

It is the eighth judicial intervention against oppositional parties since 2012, but the first time they do so against the main opposition players. It appears that the TSJ will also intervene in the last party of the BIG-4, Un Nuevo Tiempo, meaning that all major opposition political parties in Venezuela will be under government control. Juan Guaidó’s party Voluntad Popular will likely be declared a terrorist organization.

Government Coalition

  • There are tensions within the government coalition as well. The Communist Party of Venezuela rejected TSJ intervention in the political parties internal affairs, referring to the cases of AD and PJ. Also, the party asked for better electoral conditions, access to public funding and media coverage.
  • In parallel, Venezuela’s Attorney General Tarek William Saab ordered the arrest of Tupamaro party leader Jose Pinto.
  • Maduro ordered the PSUV to choose its candidates in just one week and also to form an alliance with the other “revolutionary parties of Venezuela.”

Humanitarian Crisis

  • The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) says the number of people facing severe food insecurity is increasing rapidly with refugees and migrants being in a very vulnerable position. The WFP does not operate in Venezuela but is negotiating with the government of Maduro to return before the end of 2020, after a 45-year absence.
  • In May, over 1000 protests took place, 93% of which focused on infrastructure, services, scarcities and other social economic demands.

Covid-19

  • The government announced that the COVID-19 had infected 3,150 people in the country, and 27 deaths.
  • On June 13 the government of Maduro announced that Venezuelan airspace would remain close for at least another 30 days.
  • The Maduro government signed an agreement that Turkey will send protective equipment and mechanical ventilators to Venezuela.
  • Guaidó’s team announced that signed a deal with Non-governmental organization Medical Bridges to send 90 tons of medical care to Venezuela.

Violence

  • According to the Latin American Feminicide Map (MLF), a monitoring tool that denounces and make visible gender violence in the region, during May occurred seventeen femicides in Venezuela during May.
  • After the recent FAES killing of five men in one Caracas barrio, pro-government human rights organization Surgentes urged the government to change its security policy.

Corruption

  • Alex Saab, a Colombian-Venezuelan businessman allegedly linked to Maduro, was detained in the African nation of Cabo Verde on an Interpol warrant. The government in Caracas called his arrest an illegal act of aggression by the Trump administration and claimed that Saab was acting as a government agent on an international “humanitarian mission” to buy food and medicine. Saab will be held there until the Cabo Verde government rules on whether it can extradite him to the U.S. without an extradition treaty.

Sanctions

  • Venezuela is now on the verge of famine due to the impact the fuel crisis has had in the corps production, according to a recent Bloomberg report.
  • Mexican president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, said that Mexico would sell gasoline to Venezuela if the Venezuelan government makes a request. Sources suggest Nicolas Maduro will do so soon.