Opposition Mayor Dismissed by Venezuelan Supreme Court

Some controversy has arisen over the dismissal of an opposition mayor of Sucre municipality in Zulia state, Jorge Barboza, and his temporary replacement by a pro-government one, Humberto Franka. The government has also nominated a new higher education minister.

Merida, February 26th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Some controversy has arisen over the dismissal of an opposition mayor of Sucre municipality in Zulia state, Jorge Barboza, and his temporary replacement by a pro-government one, Humberto Franka. The government has also nominated a new higher education minister.

The ruling, emitted by the electoral court of the Supreme Court, said the act of proclamation of the mayor made on 23 Novemeber 2008 was annulled.

It explained, “In conformity with…article 224 of the Organic Law of Electoral Processes, the National Electoral Council (CNE) is ordered to carry out a new electoral process to elect the mayor of Sucre municipality, Zulia state, excluding the citizen Jorge Alberto Barboza Gutierrez from this election for a complete period of four years, and according to article 174 of the constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.”

The court ordered that Franka, who was mayor previous to the 2008 elections and also ran again in those elections, but lost, take on the position until the new elections.

Government news media quote mayor of San Francisco municipality in Zulia, Omar Prieto, who said the decision of the Supreme Court was correct, as Barboza was not complying with the requirements of his position. Also, he was not residing in the municipality at the time of the elections and he owed municipal taxes.

Prieto warned that the opposition was calling for violent street protests and that police had been ordered to maintain public order. He also said, “We have information about the militarisation of the mayoralty of Sucre,” and that Barboza had been preparing “destabilising acts”.

Prieto said that opposition sectors refused to respect institutional norms and that their arguments of fraud were not valid.

On the other hand, privately owned opposition press talked of political persecution, and quoted A New Time party (UNT) saying the decision was “ridiculous”, that it was “judicial barbarism” and that the Venezuelan government knows that its candidates will lose and the only way to win is to “lie to the people so they don’t participate.”

Members of the UNT and “the general community” blocked a main road leading to the municipality yesterday, El Universal reported. Then they marched to the head offices of the mayoralty.

Jhony Gonzalez, a councillor and president of the UNT in the area, said the ruling by the Supreme Court was “unconstitutional…we demand legality.”

He said that where Barboza was being investigated, the president of the municipal chambers should temporarily take his place.

Barboza said the Supreme Court measured aimed to “discourage people from voting on 26 September [National Assembly elections].” He also said the decision was based on the fact that he lived in a rental property and the owner of the house owed BsF1,200 ($279) in municipal taxes. 

New Higher Education Minister

Yesterday Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez confirmed the appointment of Edgardo Ramirez as the new minister for higher education.

Ramirez replaces Luis Acuna, who Chavez said hopes to run as a candidate for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) for Sucre state in the National Assembly elections this September. Acuna had been minister for higher education since 2007.