Venezuela: Constituent Assembly VP ousted amid controversy over economic inaction

Isaias Rodriguez.
November 6, 2017

The second vice-president of Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) has been removed after he publicly criticised the body’s inaction in the face of the country’s deepening economic crisis.

Former Attorney- General Isaias Rodriguez penned an op-ed in Venezuela’s centre-left newspaper Ultimas Noticias on October 23 in which he warned Chavismo could lose next year’s presidential elections, “if the government and the National Constituent Assembly do not offer timely responses to this problem [of inflation]”.

“We defeated the opposition’s virtual reality but we refuse to reflect on our own … prices have shot up uncontrollably,” he wrote, referring to the dramatic devaluation of Venezuela’s currency following Chavismo’s surprise October 15 regional election win.

The bolivar lost nearly a third of its black market value in the 10 days following the vote, falling from 31,109 bolivars a dollar on election day to 42,144 on October 25.  

Shortly after the publication of the article, the ANC vice-president came under fire from fellow ANC member Pedro Carreno, who accused Rodriguez of “treason". 

“The Empire is attacking us with force and fury so that it is said that the National Constituent Assembly is a failure,” Carreno said during an interview on Venezuelan state television on October 26.

“Careful that we don’t fall for this trap, I say to the Venezuelan people and to some ANC members like Second Vice-President Isaias Rodriguez, who I’ve heard with this [criticism]. If they do this in a deliberate manner, it’s treason against the homeland.”

The next day, Rodriguez was relieved of his post and replaced with former United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) legislator Elvis Amoroso.

Rodriguez's removal was met with deep criticism by Venezuelan social movements, who took to social media to express their anger. #LessCarrenosMoreIsaias became a trending hashtag on Twitter.

Following his dismissal, Rodriguez released a public letter in which he claimed that the decision was taken at the request of the Italian foreign ministry, which reportedly complained that he could not continue to simultaneously occupy both his ANC post and his position as Venezuelan ambassador to Italy.

Rodriguez is not the only ANC member who has criticised the body’s inertia in the economic arena.

Speaking on Union Radio on Monday, ANC representative for pensioners David Paravisini said the body’s leaders “resist incorporating the economic issue into the agenda of the plenary discussions”.

“There is pressure from certain sectors of the PSUV who I imagine don’t want this [economic] issue to be opened because it terrifies them,” the engineer and university professor added.

Nonetheless, Paravisini confirmed that the different commissions of the ANC are actively debating the eight laws for addressing the economic crisis proposed by President Nicolas Maduro in September.

Another critical voice is independent pollster and ANC member Oscar Schemel, who regards the economic question as the body’s “great debt” to the Venezuelan people, which he says is finally being “taken seriously”.

“The economy has always been an absent debate [and] I think this is the first time that the debate over a new economic model — a real debate — is being taken seriously,” he told Panorama on October 30.

The ANC was elected on July 30 with a mandate to resolve the country’s political impasse and severe economic crisis.

Under the 1999 constitution, the body has the authority to not only redraft Venezuela’s constitution, but also to supervise all other established branches of government.

[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]

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