In a September 3rd press conference with foreign correspondents, Ivan Rincon, the president of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, clarified that one of the court’s sentences made public the previous Monday was forged.
The disputed sentence has to do with a ruling about whether or not President Chavez would be permitted to run for president again, if he were to lose a recall referendum.
The initial ruling released last Monday dismissed the request for an interpretation and also said that a recalled official could not run for the same office again immediately following the recall. However, shortly after it released the ruling, the TSJ issued another declaration, saying that the initial ruling had been forged, in that two paragraphs were added which were not part of what the court had voted on. Rather, the court says that it had meant to issue only a unanimous dismissal of the request for an interpretation of article 72 of the constitution, which deals with recall referenda. The part which denies the possibility of running for the same office following a recall was forged, according to Rincon.
Members of the opposition immediately charged the court with trying to reverse a controversial ruling, upon having supposedly received pressure from President Chavez. Ivan Rincon, however, during the press conference, categorically denied revising the ruling under any kind of pressure. Rather, a dismissal of an interpretation request that includes an interpretation, as the allegedly forged document did, would be self-contradictory and that the court would never issue such a ruling. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice immediately issued a request to the attorney general’s office to investigate the forgery. According to Rincon, the forgery could have been made by “people inside or people outside [of the judiciary], but it definitely occurred.” All five members of the constitutional court, which issued the ruling, were unanimous in that they did not sign a ruling with the two disputed paragraphs.
Rincon added, “This was to discredit … because in this country when an institution is working, someone tries to say the opposite,” in reference to the ruling the court had made shortly beforehand, in which it named the new national electoral council (CNE). The court’s ruling on the CNE had been applauded by all sides in Venezuela’s conflict, thus raising the court’s moral authority in the country, something which, Rincon says, some in Venezuela would like to undermine.