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Chavez Given Enabling Law Power
Monday, 20 December 2010
Enabling Law allows Chavez to address the current crisis by delivering aid to people and agricultural areas affected, but not by exploiting disasters for profit and regressive social change—like America does it.
On December 17, parliament gave Chavez enabling law power in response to torrential rains and severe floods that ravaged Venezuelan communities, killed at least 35, destroyed over 5,000 homes, and displaced about 120,000 or more people in 11 of the country's 23 states. He asked for one year. Parliament gave him 18 months to deal with the crisis.
National Assembly President Cilia Flores said it was needed to help "people who are relying" on him to help. "So that they can have their street, their highways, public services, electricity, everything to live in dignity, we are going to hear (their) proposals and concerns," then respond accordingly.
More on how it works below. Despite opposition and media criticism (in Venezuela and America), it's not about seizing dictatorial powers, nor has Chavez done it since taking office in February 1999.
No matter. On December 14, New York Times writer (and vocal Chavez critic) Simon Romero headlined, "Chavez Seeks Decree Powers," saying:
On December 14, Wall Street Journal writer Dan Molinski headlined, "Venezuela Opposition Denounces Chavez Move," saying:
On December 17, AP reporter Fabiola Sanchez headlined, "Venezuela congress grants Chavez decree powers," saying:
False, and they know it. Enabling law power includes well-defined checks and balances.
How It Works
Enabling law power is legal but limited. Chavez used it three previous times. Four earlier presidents used it. Venezuela's 1961 Constitution authorized it. So did the 1999 one under Article 203, stating:
They're not dictatorial. They must conform to constitutional provisions and restraints. They may only be issued in National Assembly named areas within the time period allowed. In some cases, the Supreme Court must rule on their constitutionality.
Moreover, Constitutional law lets ordinary Venezuelans rescind what's enacted if at least 10% of voters request it. A national referendum majority then decides up or down. For decree law, it's 5%, a tougher standard to reverse unwanted measures.
In addition, parliament, by majority vote, may change or rescind decree laws any time it wishes. They serve to strengthen, not subvert democracy. Critics disagree but offer no proof. The last time Chavez used enabling law power was in 2007 to:
It's by far the most important, vital to protect, used for all Venezuelans, and kept from letting Big Oil exploit it for themselves.
In 2001, he used enabling laws for land reform, improved credit access for small entrepreneurs, greater equity for small vs. large fishers, and increased hydrocarbon state revenue. Its now for Venezuela's flood victims, what earlier political/oligarch cabals never imagined or their US counterparts for the last 30 years.
America exploits security threats, terror attacks, economic crises, competing ideologies, tectonic political or financial shifts, and natural disasters for greater concentrated wealth, power, and repressive control. As a result, wars are waged, jobs lost, wages and benefits cut, and freedoms lost in the name of national security.
Former Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel admitted it, saying: "You never want a serious crisis to go to waste. They (offer) opportunities to do big things" for America's aristocracy, not workers to be exploited for their benefit.
In his 1962 book "Capitalism and Freedom (Phoenix Books)," Milton Friedman endorsed the idea, saying:
In other words, disaster capitalism or "shock doctrine" opportunities should be exploited so big money can make more of it through greater wealth transfers from the majority to them. More recently, it worked post-Katrina and after the fall 2007 current economic crisis erupted.
If responsibly used, enabling law power is mirror opposite. It benefits all Venezuelans, not solely rich ones. Chavez used it for greater social justice, what Americans haven't gotten since Ronald Reagan declared war on New Deal reforms. Hopefully, Chavez will again prove his critics wrong, getting aid to needy flood victims left homeless by the devastating storms.
In other words, he may address the current crisis by delivering aid to people and areas affected. That's how government should work, not by exploiting disasters for profit and regressive social change, the way America does it ruthlessly.
On December 17, Venezuela Analysis contributor Edward Ellis headlined, "Venezuelan Government Plans to Increase Agricultural Productivity after Floods," saying:
He also plans other reconstructive measures, social justice ones when they're most needed. His critics call it a power grab. Recipients, of course, are grateful.
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This story was published in the Baltimore Chronicle on December 20, 2010.