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Venezuela's Supreme Court President: Executive Branch is Constitutionally Allowed to Approve Reform of Penal Code

The judge noted the urgency of reforming Venezuela’s 119-year-old Penal Code, which she said is outdated

The president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ), Luisa Estella Morales, said Monday that the President of the Republic, Hugo Chávez, may constitutionally approve reforms to the Penal Code under the enabling law (temporary decree powers for select issues given to the executive by lawmakers).

In a televised interview, Morales denied claims by some in right-wing groups and abroad who said that the legal instrument “should be approved by the National Assembly and that if it is approved by the Head of State it would violate the Constitution.”

“The approval of the Penal Code by the president via the enabling law is specifically adapted to the constitutional context, which, it is not redundant to say, enables legislation in specific instances,” she said.

“The Venezuelan constitution has a special characteristic that sometimes when seen from outside is not easily understood. I have seen many foreign judges ask themselves how a president can approve a law, but it turns out that the Venezuelan constitution, approved by the majority of the people, allows the president to make and decree laws,” Morales explained.

The judge also highlighted the urgency of reforming the country’s Penal Code, in force since 1893, which she said is no longer adapted to the contemporary reality of rights and social justice and is out of sync with the constitution, having been approved over 100 years earlier.

She said that obstacles and delays in the judicial system are part of what makes the reform necessary.

Lastly, Morales explained that the obstacles are the result of excessive formalities in some hearings, including in “the composition of juries, with which there have always been serious delays, and another important point is failure of suspects to appear in court.”

Correo del Orinoco / Press – Embassy of Venezuela to the U.S. / June 5, 2012

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