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The Permanent Crisis in Venezuela

1:45 PM, Feb 25, 2013 • By JAIME DAREMBLUM
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The country’s economic and security crises would be easier to solve if Venezuela were still a real democracy. But it patently is not. Chávez and his allies have been building an elected dictatorship for more than a decade: trampling press freedom, persecuting their critics, packing the supreme court, and granting the president autocratic powers. Yet even by Venezuelan standards, the shenanigans of the past two months have been truly outrageous.

Government officials insist that Chávez is still officially the president—even though he was unable to attend the inauguration ceremony scheduled for January 10 and was not sworn in by either the national assembly or the supreme court, as the Venezuelan constitution demands. (Incidentally, that constitution was written by Chávez loyalists in 1999.) If Chávez’s absence really is temporary, the constitution says that Maduro must formally become president until Chávez can return to the job. If his absence is permanent, the constitution says that the speaker of the national assembly, Diosdado Cabello, must become president and must call an election within 30 days. Yet neither Maduro nor Cabello has been made president, and no election has been called. Venezuelan officials are thus openly defying their constitution. They are behaving like the old Soviet apparatchiks who would secretly plot leadership transitions behind closed doors.

A constitutional crisis, an economic crisis, and a security crisis: Add them all together, and Venezuela is experiencing a permanent societal crisis that will outlive its dying autocrat.

Jaime Daremblum, who served as Costa Rica’s ambassador to the United States from 1998 to 2004, is director of the Center for 

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