Venezuela’s Opposition Calls Supreme Court Decision a “Coup”

Venezuela’s opposition leaders and media reacted angrily to the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s decision to delay President Hugo Chavez’s inauguration, calling it a “coup” and claiming the Chavez government has illegally taken power.


Punto Fijo, January 10th, 2013 ( – Venezuela’s opposition leaders and media reacted angrily to the Venezuelan Supreme Court’s decision to delay President Hugo Chavez’s inauguration, calling it a “coup” and claiming the Chavez government has illegally taken power.

Opposition leaders had called on the Supreme Court to make a decision regarding the legality of postponing the inauguration, yet were angered when the official decision announced on Wednesday confirmed that Chavez’s inauguration was not necessary for the Chavez government to continue in power.

Various media outlets referred to a “coup d’état”, while opposition leaders claimed the decision was “prefabricated” and “a huge lie”. One editorial from the opposition daily El Universal called it “the worst crisis in the history of the republic.”

“This decision allows our country to be governed by people who have not been elected,” said opposition spokesperson Vestalia Sampedro.

Former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles held a press conference following the Supreme Court decision to detail what would be the opposition’s official response.

“This doesn’t clear up the uncertainty. This is a government full of liars,” said a visibly angry Capriles.

“Venezuela’s Supreme Court has decided to resolve this problem for the government,” he said, insisting that the court was simply “responding to the interests of a political party”.

Although earlier Capriles had said that Chavez’s swearing-in could be postponed, in recent days he changed position, now claiming that the president of the National Assembly should take power.

“None of these people were elected in October’s elections,” he said, referring to the officials that make up the Chavez government. “Here the people voted for only one person, and we wonder what the people of Venezuela think about these people who make up the government,” he said.

But despite earlier threats to create “anarchy” by calling for a “general strike” and calling on their supporters to take the streets, Capriles declined to mobilize the opposition supporters to protest the decision, saying it would be “irresponsible” and would only create more conflict.

An internal email from Capriles’ political party Primero Justicia published on the opposition blog Caracas Chronicles yesterday revealed the thinking behind the opposition strategy.

The email said the constitutional debate is “complex”, allowing for “different interpretations”, and admitted that “most people don’t care about it even though we do.”

“It is difficult to convince people that those who held power before October—and also won the election—are now governing thanks to a coup,” said the email. “We can’t be seen as trying to gain via a technicality what we have yet to achieve via the vote.”

Globovision investigation

A fierce media campaign in recent weeks has promoted the opposition’s interpretation of the constitution, and has claimed that the government is engaged in a “power grab” by continuing in power for the 2013-2019 constitutional period for which Chavez was elected last October.

The campaign provoked a response from the government, who announced on Wednesday night that the National Commission of Telecommunications (Conatel) was opening an investigation of private television channel Globovision for violating Article 31 of the Media Responsibility Law.

The director of Conatel explained that the law establishes that “television and radio media cannot transmit elements that seek to create agitation among the population, alter the public order, attack the stability of the democratic system and the legitimate authorities, or seek to generate hate or intolerance for religious or political reasons.”

The opposition channel Globovision has run constant political ads in recent days claiming that the government was violating the constitution by continuing in power past the January 10th inauguration date.

Regional reaction

Several Latin American governments have expressed solidarity with the Chavez government, and supported the official decision to delay the inauguration of President Chavez.

A foreign policy advisor to President Dilma Roussef said on Tuesday that there was “no discontinuity” if President Chavez were not formally sworn-in on January 10th.

“It’s not as if a new president were elected, and therefore the term is continued. It is the same president that is succeeding himself,” said Brazilian advisor Marco Aurélio Garcia.

Uruguayan president José Mujica arrived in Caracas Wednesday night in solidarity with the Chavez government and called on Venezuelans to respect the state’s institutions.

“I am absolutely sure that Venezuelan institutions will function, and will make the decisions that they have to make,” he said.

Several other Latin American presidents also arrived in Venezuela early Thursday morning to attend a rally in support of Chavez, and to show solidarity with the Venezuelan government.