Venezuelan National Assembly Passes 27 Laws in 7 months

In this year’s legislative period Venezuela’s National Assembly passed 27 laws, which includes a law to strengthen regulation of the stock exchange and a drugs law that legislates the reinsertion of former drug addicts into the work place, which were passed this week.

By Tamara Pearson - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly (archive)
Cilia Flores, president of the National Assembly (archive)
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Merida, August 13th, 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In this year’s legislative period Venezuela’s National Assembly passed 27 laws, the president of the assembly, Cilia Flores announced today. This includes a law to strengthen regulation of the stock exchange and a drugs law that legislates the reinsertion of former drug addicts into the work place, which were passed this week.

The National Assembly’s first legislative period is from 5 January to 15 August each year. In the same time period this year, it also passed 53 “approving” laws, or laws that ratify international or bilateral treaties or agreements made by Venezuela.

Some of the key ordinary laws passed include the Organic (pertaining to the constitution) Law of the Government Federal Council, which created a high level government decision making body that involves communal council and movement representatives together with ministers and state governors.

The Assembly also passed a reform to the Organic Law of the Supreme Court, a reform of the Land Law, and the Law of the Reorganisation of the Electricity Sector.

In May it passed a reform of the Law against Illicit Exchange, which made the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV) the only body able to authorise the purchase and sale of foreign currencies and redefined currency trading to include bonds denominated in foreign currency, in order to restrict the operation of the parallel currency market.

Flores called for an extraordinary meeting of the National Assembly for 18 August, in order to also approve the General Banking Law in the second and final discussion.

Stock Exchange Law

On Tuesday the National Assembly approved the Stock Exchange Law in second discussion, a law of 56 articles that aims to strengthen the supervision and regulation of that sector.

The law decrees that stock brokers are not allowed to trade national public debt. Such debt can only be traded by a public stock exchange, a figure created by the law, or through operators authorised by the Central Bank of Venezuela (BCV).

The law was created due to many cases of fraud detected among stockbrokers, and to further combat the parallel currency market. It also gives the president of Venezuela the right to suspend the stock exchange if he or she believes it to be necessary, and creates a Stocks Superintendency to regulate the stock market.

For a stock exchange to start up, it needs a minimum of Bs 2 million ($US 465,000) and at least 20 members.

Further, “The law establishes participation mechanisms for the communal councils and other forms of people’s organisation, as the market can’t belong exclusively to the stockbrokers,” said legislator Simon Escalona.

Law of drugs

Also, yesterday the National Assembly approved the reform of the Organic Drugs Law, which Flores saw as a “mechanism to continue fighting drugs”.  The changes to the law emphasise prevention and reinsertion into society of people who have overcome an addiction.

The assembly created article 11, which says the state is obliged to guarantee and provide education and training for programs, projects, and networks aimed at children and adolescents, to prevent drug trafficking and use.

Companies with over 50 employees must now legally collaborate with the reinsertion of ex-drug addicts.

Those trafficking or distributing “large” quantities of drugs face a penalty of 25-30 years in prison, and forfeiting all their goods to the state. “Micro” traffickers, found with over 100 grams of cocaine or over a kilo of marihuana, can face up to 10 years in jail.

Although Venezuelans will elect new legislators for the National Assembly on 16 September, the current assembly will have its final legislative period from 15 September to 15 December this year.

While the National Assembly under the Chavez government has been very proactive in passing a range of laws and modifying others, some people speculate that the assembly is also trying to get laws passed before the government potentially loses its two thirds majority in the elections.

The National Assembly is a single chamber (unicameral) legislative power that was formed after the approval of the new constitution in 1999. Before that, Venezuela had a Congress with two chambers (bicameral).