CARACAS, Tuesday December 14, 2004 | Update
Lawmakers Cilia Flores and Nicolás Maduro, leaders of the ruling party MVR delegation in Parliament, could not hide their satisfaction for a job completed (Photo: Venancio Alcázares)
In only three hours, the pro-government majority in the National Assembly completed the task of designating the 17 principal judges of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and their 32 substitutes, thus accommodating the top court to its new organic law, enacted on May, while the opposition repeatedly rejected the process as unconstitutional.
The new judges were elected with 101 votes. The process is to end on Thursday, when the National Assembly is to swear in the judges that are to fill in positions in the six chambers comprising the top Venezuelan court.
Eighteen lawmakers took the floor during the session on Monday: eight for the pro-government delegation, six of whom announced the names of the candidates to become judges.
The lawmaking body had previously held three special sessions to elect the TSJ judges, but all of the sessions were suspended because the pro-government lawmakers would not disclose the names of the candidates or because there was not quorum for the election. Under the law, lawmakers may convene up to three special sessions to elect the top judges with a qualified majority. Should a consensus not be reached within such a term, the National Assembly may designate the judges with a simple majority, as it did on Monday.
According to the opposition deputies, ruling party MVR refused to disclose the names of the candidates because not even Chávez' supporters had reached a consensus on the matter.
In fact, the list was handed over hand written and right before the names were announced to the session. Most selected judges were not appointed to the TSJ chambers they had been assigned to by a Citizens' Power's committee evaluating the candidates.
Cilia Flores, leader of the ruling party MVR parliamentarian delegation, presented the candidates to the TSJ's Constitutional Chamber. Luis Velázquez Alvaray, Luisa Estela Morales and the current president of the National Electoral Council (CNE) Francisco Carrasquero will be the principal judges of the TSJ's Constitutional Chamber. Velázquez and Morales are to fill in two new positions created under the new law, while Carrasquero is to complete judge José Delgado Ocando's term (eight years) after the latter retired. Substitute judges are Marcos Dugarte Padrón, Arcadio Delgado Rosales, Carmen Zuletta, Elba Paredes Yéspica, Doris González, José Bermúdez Cuberos, and Clemencia Margarita Palencia.
The principal judges of the TSJ's Electoral Chamber are Luis Alfredo Sucre Cubas, Fernando Ramón Vegas Torrealba, Juan José Núñez Calderón, and Rafael Arístides Rengifo. Their substitutes are Dainube Quiñones, Marchory Carvajal, José Rosales, María Auxiliadora González, and Aura Guzmán Díaz.
The principal judges of the TSJ's Political-Administrative Chamber are Emiro García Rosas, Evelyn Marrero Ortiz. The substitute judges are Rodolfo Luzardo Batista, Firely Carmen Navarro, Mirian Elena Becerra, Octavio José Sisco, and Carmen Salazar Briceño.
For the TSJ's Social Chamber the new top judges are Luis Franceschi, Carmen Eligia Porras Escalante, while the substitutes are Betty Josefina Torres, Nora J. Vásquez, Jesús Alberto Soto, Antonio Espinoza, and Medardo Páez.
For the TSJ's Penal Chamber, the top judges are Eladio Aponte Aponte, Deyanira Nieves, Héctor Coronado. The substitutes are Miriam Morandi, Jorge Eliécer Rondón, Fernando Gómez, Marianela Canga García, and Rafael Luciano Pérez Moochet.
For the Civilian Chamber, the principal judges are Luis Ortiz Hernández, Iris Peña de Andueza, and Isbelia Pérez de Caballero. Substitute judges are Moisés Rosales Delgado, Jesús Sarmiento Niño, Eduardo Barranco Hernández, David Rondón Jaramillo, and Jesús del Valle Millán Figuera.
The opposition parliamentarians participated in the debate, which started at 4:00 p.m., until 6:00 p.m., when they left the National Assembly to reject the election.
Nicolás Maduro, another top MVR leader, stressed that the newly elected judges are "the spearheads of the judiciary revolution upon which the democratic state we are building up is based."
He disregarded opposition parliamentarian Julio Borges' remarks against the election by saying that the opposition intended "to propose a reform of justice. We do not believe in a reform of justice! We have pleaded for and are pleading for a judiciary revolution in Venezuela to transform the judiciary apparatus as a whole and builds a new model of justice -based on new foundations- for all in our country."
Opposition Convergencia congressman Juan José Caldera claimed that Monday was "a mourning day for the rule of law in Venezuela. Today the TSJ has been attacked as ordered two years ago, when the top court issued that ruling that disturbed President (Hugo Chávez) so much." Caldera was referring to a TSJ judgment that acquitted top military officers accused of conducting a coup d'etat on April 11-12, 2002.
Translated by Maryflor Suárez
02:57 PM. HEAVY RAINS. Venezuelan Executive Vice-President Elias Jaua reported that the government is designing plans to support farmers, cattlemen and peasants of the state of Mérida who have been hit by heavy rains that have caused crop losses.