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Venezuela: Constitutional structure

The Constitution provides that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela is a social and democratic State, which holds life, liberty, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy, social responsibility and the pre-eminence of human rights as superior values of its legal order.[1]

The Constitution is the supreme law of the country and the foundation of the legal order, all authorities and public servants being subject to it.[2] In case of incompatibility between the laws and the Constitution, judges must apply the Constitution.[3]

The country is a federal structure composed of the States, the Capital District, the federal dependencies and the federal territories; each territory is divided in Municipalities.[4] The States and Municipalities are autonomous entities with legal personality, and are subject to the Constitution and the law.[5]

The National Public Power is composed of the Executive Power, the Legislative Power, the Judicial Power, the Electoral Power and the Citizen Power. The Constitution provides for separation of these powers, and states that the branches of power must work together to ensure the fulfilment of the State’s objectives.[6]

The Constitution provides that human rights are to be guaranteed by the State in accordance with the “principle of progressiveness”, a concept that is not defined within by Constitution.[7] The State and government bodies must respect and comply with human rights and guarantees in accordance the Constitution, human rights treaties to which the state is a party, and law.[8]

 

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  1. 1. Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (hereinafter, ‘Constitution’), Article 2.
    Venezuela constitutes itself as a Democratic and Social State of Law and Justice, which holds as superior values of its legal order and actions those of life, liberty, justice, equality, solidarity, democracy, social responsibility and, in general, the preeminence of human rights, ethics and political pluralism.
    Consulted at: http://www.tsj.gob.ve/legislacion/enmienda2009.pdf (Accessed 21 August 2014).
  2. 2. Constitution, Article 7.
    The Constitution is the supreme law and foundation of the legal order. All persons and organs exercising Public Power are subject to this Constitution.
  3. 3. Constitution,Article 334.
    All of the judges of the Republic, within their respective spheres of competence and in accordance with the provisions of this Constitution and law, are obligated to ensure the integrity of the Constitution.
    In the event of incompatibility between the Constitution and a law or other juridical provision, the provisions of the Constitution shall prevail, being the responsibility of the courts to rule accordingly in any case, even ex officio.
    The Constitutional Division of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, as court of constitutional competence, shall have the exclusive power to declare the nullity of laws and other acts of organs exercising Public Power which are issued by way of direct and immediate implementation of the Constitution or have the status of law.
  4. 4. Constitution, Article 16.
    For purposes of the political organization of the Republic, the territory of the nation is divided into those of the States, the Capital District, federal dependencies and federal territories. The territory is organized into Municipalities.
    The political division of the territory shall be regulated by an organic law which shall guarantee municipal autonomy and administrative/political decentralization. Such law may provide for the creation of federal territorial in certain areas within the States, the taking effect of which shall be subject to the holding of a referendum to approve the same in the organ concerned. By special law, a federal territory may be given the status of a State; being allocated part or all of the territorial area concerned.
  5. 5. Constitution, Articles 159

    The States are politically equal and autonomous organs with full juridical personality, and are obligated to maintain the independence, sovereignty and integrity of the nation and to comply with and enforce the Constitution and the laws of the Republic.

    and 168.
    Municipalities constitute the primary political unit in the organization of the nation, and enjoy artificial personality and autonomy within the limits prescribed by the Constitution and the law.
    Municipal autonomy includes:1. Election of municipal authorities.2. Management of affairs within the scope of its competence.

    3. Creation, collection and investment of its revenues.

    The actions of a Municipality within the scope of its competence shall be carried out by incorporating citizen participation into the process of defining and managing public affairs and monitoring and evaluating the results achieved, in an effective, sufficient and timely manner, in accordance with law.

    The actions of Municipalities may be contested only before the courts of competent jurisdiction, in accordance with the Constitution and the law.
  6. 6. Constitution, Article 136.
    Public Power is distributed among Municipal Power, that of the States Power and National Power. National Public Power is divided into Legislative, Executive, Judicial, Citizen and Electoral.
    Each of the branches of Public Power has its own functions, but the organs charged with exercising the same shall cooperate with one another in attaining the ends of the State.
  7. 7. Constitution, Article 19.

    The State shall guarantee to every individual, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination of any kind, no renounceable, indivisible and interdependent enjoyment and exercise of human rights. Respect for and the guaranteeing of these rights is obligatory for the organs of Public Power, in accordance with the Constitution, the human rights treaties signed and ratified by the Republic and any laws developing the same.

    The UN Human Rights Committee, presumably fearful that this phrase might be invoked to justify failures to fully uphold human rights, including civil and political rights, noted in 2001 that this principle “has not been satisfactorily explained”. Human Rights Committee, Concluding Observations on the Report Submitted by Venezuela Under Article 40 of the Covenant, UN Doc. CCPR/CO/71/VEN (2001), para. 5.

    The Committee is concerned to discover that article 19 of the Constitution guarantees citizens their rights “in accordance with the principle of progressiveness”, a principle that has not been satisfactorily explained.

  8. 8. Constitution, Article 19.

    The State shall guarantee to every individual, in accordance with the progressive principle and without discrimination of any kind, no renounceable, indivisible and interdependent enjoyment and exercise of human rights. Respect for and the guaranteeing of these rights is obligatory for the organs of Public Power, in accordance with the Constitution, the human rights treaties signed and ratified by the Republic and any laws developing the same.

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