Venezuela’s finance chairman proposes suing justices over budget ruling

CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct. 17 (UPI) — The chairman of the Venezuelan National Assembly’s finance committee has proposed filing lawsuits against supreme court justices for ruling that President Nicolas Maduro can bypass congress in presenting the national budget.

Alfonso Marquina, chairman of Venezuela’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Development, said the opposition-controlled unicameral legislature should “sue the judges before the Moral Council for usurpation of functions.”

Last week, Venezuela’s highest court, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, ruled Maduro could forego presenting his 2017 budget to the legislature and instead deliver it to the court’s Constitutional Hall for approval.

Marquina said TSJ justices could be sued before Venezuela’s Moral Republican Council, the government’s ethics agency, because “when the Constitutional Hall proclaims itself the National Assembly, it is usurping our functions.”

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The National Assembly on Tuesday will discuss the recent budget ruling to create a “unified position of the Assembly” to make clear that there is “criminal liability for both the president and the justices who are giving license to commit crimes, which is a rupture of constitutional order,” Marquina said.

“Since 1861, the budget is a law that befalls the parliament,” Marquina said, adding that Maduro presenting the budget to the court is “a violation of the Constitution in at least seven articles.”

The TSJ said it made the decision because of the “urgent need” to approve the budget “in order to maintain the function” of the government. The TSJ also said the decision was based on an economic crisis decree issued by Maduro, as well as on the “voluntary contempt maintained” by the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition.

The TSJ has been repeatedly criticized as acting as an extension of the socialist regime established under former President Hugo Chavez. The judiciary has handed multiple victories to Maduro since the MUD gained power of the unicameral National Assembly earlier this year after sweeping victories in parliamentary elections in December.

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