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Vice-president Presents Venezuela’s Yearly Review, Some Opposition Walk Out

Merida, January 16th 2013 ( – Yesterday the vice-president handed over the yearly review of the national executive’s management to the national assembly. Some opposition members walked out during the proceedings, expressing their dissent.

Every year the national executive puts together a long document detailing the management they have carried out during the previous year. Yesterday Vice-president Nicolas Maduro handed the document over to national assembly president Diosdado Cabello, and gave a very short speech.

According to article 237 of Venezuela’s constitution, within the first ten days that the national assembly restarts its sessions for the year (this year on 5 January), the president should personally present a message to the national assembly accounting for the political, economic, social, and administrative aspects of his or her management the previous year. Part 17 of article 236 allows the vice-president to address reports if the head of state can’t do it personally.

Last week Venezuela’s Supreme Court also ruled that vice-president Maduro, together with the ministerial cabinet, could present the yearly review.

Normally, President Hugo Chavez delivers a long speech with a verbal review of the past year, together with handing over the document. Televisions are set up in public places around the country and many people listen to the speech.

Maduro said yesterday that he had seen Chavez the day before, and he “looked optimistic about his evolution... he’s fighting with his spirit”.

Maduro also announced that Elias Jaua would be the new minister for foreign affairs. Jaua was previously vice-president, but stepped down to run in the December state elections. Maduro, the foreign minister at the time, became vice-president as well then.

As is custom, the designation was published in today’s Official Gazette as decree 9.351, which was signed by Chavez. The opposition had said yesterday that they would be alert to the printing of the decree, as constitutionally Maduro can’t sign it. Ministers can only be designated by the president.

Opposition reaction

Some opposition legislators walked out during the yearly review, and Venezuelan private media criticised how it was delivered, printing headlines such as Tal Cual’s “Venezuela: the country went without a yearly review”. El Nacional said that the “Vice president didn’t account for [2012]”.

Tal Cual pointed out that Maduro talked for seven minutes, where as last year Chavez talked for 9 hours and 47 minutes.  In the past the opposition has criticised Chavez for talking for too long.

Opposition leader Claudio Fermin claimed that there was “no problem” that the president didn’t present the report for health reasons, but that “those who did present it didn’t follow the constitutional steps to do so”. He said the Supreme Court made an “absurd” decision, and that it’s not within the court’s jurisdiction to “designate vice-presidents”. He concluded that the national assembly should declare a temporary absence of the president.

Opposition legislator Dinorah Figuera told Noticias 24 that the yearly review was “improvised, because since the president got sick, there is ungovernability in Venezuela”.

Finally, another opposition legislator, Julio Borges said, “We decided to protest because of how things are being done in the country, to protest because there wasn’t a yearly review. Some of us decided to leave the assembly as a form of protest, and others stayed.”

Communication minister Ernesto Villegas has suggested however, that the fact that the three newly elected opposition governors participated in a meeting of the Federal Government Council yesterday morning, shows that they believe in the “legitimacy” of the government.

The opposition have questioned the government’s “legitimacy” in other situations recently, including the fact that Chavez did not swear-in for his new term as president on 10 of January, and that there has been an administrative continuation, with ministers continuing on in their positions. 

Published on Jan 16th 2013 at 6.15pm