Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Vzla: Chavez SCt buddies contradict earlier ruling of SCt electoral panel

The Venezuelan Supreme Court's constitutional chamber, in a decision contradicting its electoral panel, ruled that President Hugo Chavez's opponents haven't gathered enough valid signatures for a recall vote.

The decision by the constitutional chamber will probably be appealed to the full 20-judge Supreme Court, further delaying an effort by the opposition to force Chavez from office, said analysts such as Julia Buxton, a professor of political science at the London-based Kingston University.

"The agony continues, and Venezuela's constitutional crisis keeps getting deeper and deeper,'' Buxton said in a telephone interview. "I don't see how this crisis can end as people won't negotiate as their positions become more entrenched.''

The ruling by the constitutional panel, in which backers of the president hold a majority, contradicts one made last week by the electoral chamber which held that 876,000 disputed signatures seeking a recall of Chavez should be counted as valid. That ruling would give the opposition enough signatures to force a referendum vote on the president.

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ivan Rincon said in a televised news conference that the electoral chamber's ruling violated due process.

"This leads us inevitably to annul the ruling,'' Rincon said.
This indeed is an unconstitutional constitutional coup. Chavez and his buddies are gutting the rule of law for this decision proclaims that the ends: lifetime power for Chavez, justifies the means, constitutional corruption.

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