This past Monday Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that his government would make reforming the country’s penal code a priority in the upcoming year.
Speaking from the Venezuelan Supreme Court of Justice’s official inauguration of the 2012-2013 legal year, Chavez urged legislators within the judicial body to begin the transformation of the nation’s penal code in order to create the new “social state of law and justice”.
“How many years have we been talking about reforming the penal code and the procedural penal code? We cannot waste another year, the time is now, we have to carry out a profound reform of our legal apparatus” he said.
Reform of the penal code in Venezuela has been at the centre of a major debate for a number of years, with some arguing that the legal document contains certain articles which contradict the progressive Bolivarian Constitution that was ratified by popular vote in 1999.
During his speech Chavez impressed upon legislators the importance of amending the penal code for the continuance of the revolution, and emphasised that the newly amended code should posses a revolutionary character.
“We are pioneers; we are the vanguard for the inventors of new worlds…we have to be careful with the previous paradigm of bourgeois justice, where only the poor are seen to commit crimes and the rich are not” said the head of state.
In further comments, Chavez said that he was prepared to carry out the reforms via the enabling laws that he was granted by the Venezuelan National Assembly in December 2010, following a period of heavy rains which left thousands homeless. The laws currently allow the executive to by-pass the National Assembly and approve urgent legal decrees relating to important transformative policies. The enabling laws were initially granted for 18 months and are due to expire in June this year.
As well as addressing the issue of penal code reform, the Venezuelan mandate also revealed that he would sign a law this Tuesday allowing for the creation of a “State Counsel” to address the problem of delinquency in the country.
The State Counsel is an advisory body set out in the 1999 constitution and is designed to recommend policies to the Venezuelan president that are deemed to be in the national interest. Although the constitutional legal basis for the Counsel has existed for the past 12 years, it has not been activated up until now.
According to guidelines provided in the Venezuelan constitution, the Counsel would be presided over by the Vice-president of the Republic and would include another 5 members who would be designated by the national executive.
The creation of the Counsel will contribute to a series of other recent government initiatives aimed at addressing levels of crime and insecurity. As well as having deployed a newly trained “humanist” police force in 2010, the Chavez administration also announced the formation of a new Criminal Investigation Service and Security Mission last month.
Once signed by the president, the State Counsel law will be sent to the Supreme Court of Justice where the decree will be legally formalised.
New Attorney General Named
Following the unexpected death of acting Attorney General, Carlos Escarra, last week, Chavez officially named Venezuelan politician and lawyer Cilia Flores as the Republic’s new Attorney General.
Flores is a respected figure within the PSUV government (United Socialist Party of Venezuela) and has years of legal experience. Following the unsuccessful 1992 attempt to overthrow the second administration of Carlos Andres Perez by a group of young military officers, Flores became involved in defending the soldiers who had taken part in the rebellion. The attorney was also on the legal team which secured Chavez’s freedom following the 2 years he spent in prison as a result of his role in the uprising and she was President of the Venezuelan National Assembly from 2006-2011.
Speaking of the 1992 uprising from the Supreme Court’s inauguration, Chavez objected to the labelling of the event as a “military coup” and instead described it as a “revolution of the military’s youth” which had come out in defence of the Venezuelan people.
“Venezuela was on the floor, exploited, plundered, humiliated, our people humiliated, impoverished, hungry, living on top of a sea of riches and the bourgeoisie governing for 10, 20, 30 years, and 100 years under the subordination of Yankee imperialism…Those who want to can condemn me, but history will absolve me” concluded the President.