Discussion formally began on Tuesday in the national assembly to pass an enabling law which aims to severely crack down on both economic and political corruption.
Maduro officially proposed the law to the assembly in a speech that lasted for almost three hours. He focused on the fight against corruption, arguing that people need to stop perceiving it as “normal in political life”.
“I’ve come here to ask for enabling powers in order to deepen, speed-up, and fight the battle… for a new political ethic… I’m going to present [to the assembly] a new dynamic for the transformation of the republican ethical model and the transformation of the economic model, two elements that should be combined”.
“The era of institutional corruption should come to an end in Venezuela,” he said. Further, he announced that the government will focus its efforts on getting rid of the economic and financial mafia, “no matter their political colour”, and said there would be “zero tolerance” for corruption.
Maduro said he believes “a profound transformation of the justice system” is indispensable, and proposed the creation of professional teams in the public prosecutor’s office to investigate economic crimes. He also proposed the creation of “special organisations” to judge those crimes, as well as a legal framework to legislate around the financial functioning of political practices.
Prior to his speech he had also said that he wanted the maximum penalty for engaging in corruption to be increased from 8 years to 20.
He also emphasised the role of the people in fighting corruption and denouncing such cases. “I call on the people to not permit corruption…to not tolerate corruption either of those with a yellow collar [opposition supporters] nor the corruption of those with a red collar [supporters of the Bolivarian revolution]. It’s the same thuggery, no matter how you dress; it’s the same anti-people and anti-country behaviour,” he said.
Maduro asked for enabling powers for one year. The law is a constitutional tool which would allow Maduro pass certain laws by decree, bypassing the national assembly. In this case, it would enable him to quickly put into place the measures he proposed.
However, it is uncertain if the enabling law will be passed by the assembly. To pass it, Maduro needs 60% of the assembly votes, which translates to 99 votes. So far, apart from the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), with 92 seats, expressing its support, the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) and the Homeland for All (PPT) parties have also said they support the law. The PCV has three seats, and the PPT now has none. There are also three pro-Chavista independents, bringing total guaranteed support to 98.
The first vote on the law may not take place for a few weeks, then even if it is passed in first discussion, it must be then taken to a special commission, then ten days later submitted to a second discussion in order to be enacted.
While PSUV legislator Diosdado Cabello has accused those against the enabling law of being “corrupt”, opposition members have argued against it on the basis that when former president Hugo Chavez passed laws using such power it was “useless”. Legislator Hiram Gabiria, of the opposition MUD bloc, called the enabling law “inconvenient and inopportune” and said that it was aimed at “increasing economic repression”.
Chavez was granted decree powers four times during his 14 year period in office.
According to an ICS poll, conducted on 24 and 15 August, 71.5% of the population consider the enabling law necessary in order to fight corruption. 1,600 people were surveyed.