IS THE CIVIL SOCIETY ALLOWED TO EXERCISE THE FUNCTIONS CONFERRED BY THE CONSTITUTION?
1. Unlike the Constitution of 1961, which not even mentioned the civil society, the new Constitution of 1999 grants great preeminence to same. Notwithstanding, in practice, the Government of President Chávez Frías aims to reduce the role of society and the participation of the people, given the great resistance to its plans, which has been exercised until now by some non-government organizations and by a great portion of the civil society.
2. The "Consejo Nacional Electoral" (CNE) (the National Electoral Council), for example, has been assuming tasks, which the Constitution, the "Ley Orgánica del Poder Electoral" (the Electoral Authority Organic Law) and the "Ley Orgánica del Sufragio y Participación Política" (Voting and Political Participation Organic Law) had reserved to the civil society as center of the electoral process; among others, the designation of officers to manage the electoral process: polling-place members, regional electoral boards and directive positions in the "CNE".
3. The Legislature has backed up this task by
replacing the civil society (11 members of the Legislature
and 10 members of the civil society integrate the Nominations
Committee) in selecting the candidates for rectors of the "CNE",
even in disregard of a decision of the "TSJ" (Supreme Court
of Justice), which states that political
parties are not a part of the civil society.
4. The most aggressive position regarding the intention to weaken the role
of the civil society and of the people, is that taken by the
"TSJ" (Supreme Court of Justice), by reducing, through several
functions attributed by the Constitution to the civil society.
5. From the Constitutional Court of the "TSJ", the
most important decisions in restricting the attributions
of the civil society are:
- Nº 656, file Nº 00-1728, dated June 30 th , 2000 , in the case of the "Defensoría del Pueblo" (Counsel for the Defense of the People) against the "Comisión Legislativa Nacional" (National Legislative Commission).
- Nº 1050, File Nº 00-2378, dated August 23 rd , 2000 , in the case of the "habeas data" of the "Red de Veedores" (Supervisors' System).
- Nº 1395, File No. 00-1901, dated November 21, 2000 , in the case of the Governors against the Ministry of Finance.
6. An element in common among the aforementioned decisions is the narrow
interpretation of Article 70 of the Constitution, which
aims to restrict the people's participation. The Constitutional
Court of the "TSJ", in its judgments, does not consider a great
amount of institutions as part of the civil society and, in
consequence, such institutions cannot exercise the functions
conferred upon them by the Constitution. In doing so, such Constitutional
Court prepares the scenery so that, in the future, practically
no organization may be considered as civil society. In other
words, the former decisions, even though they do not restrain
the possibility to act or to constitute non-government organizations
nor do they restrain the civil society from organizing itself
or from obtaining internal or external financing, they limit
its possibilities to perform activities attributed by the Constitution
in its condition of civil society.