TITLE V. ORGANIZATION OF NATIONAL PUBLIC AUTHORITY
Chapter I. National Legislative Power
Section One. General Provisions
The National Assembly shall consist of Deputies elected in each of the federal entities by universal, direct, personalized and secret ballot with proportional representation, using a constituency base of 1.1 % of the total population of the country.
Each federal organ shall also elect three additional deputies. The native peoples of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela shall elect three deputies in accordance with the provisions established under election law, respecting the traditions and customs thereof.
Each deputy shall have an alternate elected by the same process.
It shall be the function of the National Assembly:
- To legislate in matters of national competence and as to the functioning of the various branches of National Power.
- To propose amendments to and revisions of the Constitution, on the terms established in this Constitution.
- To exercise control functions over the government and the National Public Administrative, on the terms established in this Constitution and by law. Evidence obtained during the exercise of this function shall have probative value on such terms as may be established by law.
- To organize and promote citizen participation in matters within its competence.
- To order amnesties.
- To discuss and approve the national budget and any bill relating to the taxation system and to public credit.
- To authorize appropriations in addition to the budget.
- To approve the general guidelines for the national economic and social development plan to be submitted by the National Executive during the third quarter of the first year of each constitutional term.
- To authorize the National Executive to enter into contracts in the national interest, in the cases established by law. To authorize contracts in the municipal, state and national public interest, with foreign States, or official entities or with companies not domiciled in Venezuela.
- To vote resolutions of censure against the Executive Vice President and Ministers. A censure motion shall be debated only two days after being submitted to the Assembly, which shall have the power to decide by a three fifths vote that the censure shall include the removal from office of the Executive Vice- President or the Minister concerned.
- To authorize the operation of Venezuelan military missions abroad or foreign military missions within the country.
- To authorize the National Executive to dispose of nonpublic real property owned by the Nation, with such exceptions as may be established by law.
- To authorize public officials to accept positions, honors or rewards from foreign governments.
- To authorize the appointment of the General Attorney of the Republic and the Heads of Permanent Diplomatic Missions.
- To confer the honors of the National Pantheon on illustrious Venezuelans who have rendered eminent services to the Republic, after 25 years have elapsed since the death of such persons; this decision may be made upon a recommendation from the President of the Republic, two thirds of the State Governors, all of the rectors of the National Universities.
- To tend that the interests and autonomy of the States are upheld.
- To authorize the departure of the President of the Republic from the territory of the Nation, when such absence is to last longer than five consecutive days.
- To approve by law any international treaties or agreements entered into by the National Executive, with the exceptions set forth in the present Constitution.
- To enact its own internal regulations and apply such sanctions as may be provided for thereunder.
- To pass on the qualifications of its members and take notice of their resignation. The temporarily separation of a deputy from his or her office, shall only be decided by a two thirds vote of those present.
- To organize its own internal security service.
- To pass and implement its budget of expenditures, taking into account the country’s financial limitations.
- To implement resolutions concerning its own administrative organization and functioning.
- Any others indicated in this Constitution or by law.
To be elected to the office of deputy of the National Assembly, a person must:
- Be Venezuelan by birth, or by naturalization with 15 years of residence within the territory of Venezuela.
- Be over the age of 21 years.
- Have resided for four consecutive years in the organ from which he or she is elected, prior to such election.
The following shall not be eligible for the office of deputy:
- The President of the Republic, the Executive Vice-President Ministers, the Secretary of the Office of the President of the Republic and the Chairpersons and Directors of Autonomous Institutes and State owned enterprises, until three months after leaving such offices.
- Governors and government secretaries of the States or the Capital District, until three months after permanently leaving such offices.
- Municipal state or national, Autonomous Institutes or State-owned enterprises, officers when the election is taking place in the jurisdiction in which such officer serves, except in the case of a temporary care-providing, teaching or academic position.
The pertinent organic law may provide for the ineligibility of other officers.
Deputies of the National Assembly shall not be proprietors, administrators or directors of business enterprises that enter into contracts with public sector juridical persons, so that they shall have no private beneficial interest in dealing with it. When matters involving financial conflicts of interest come up for discussion, the affected members of the National Assembly shall be required to abstain from the pertinent vote.
Deputies of the National Assembly shall not be permitted to accept or hold public employment positions without giving up their investiture, except in teaching, academic, temporary and care-giving positions, and provided the employment is not intended to be full-time.
The deputies [masculine] and deputies [feminine] of the National Assembly remain for five years in the exercise of their functions, and may be reelected.
Section Two. Organization of the National Assembly
The National Assembly shall appoint ordinary and special Standing Committees. The Standing Committees, which shall be no more than 15 in number, shall relate to sectors of national activity. The National Assembly shall also have the power to create Committees of temporary nature for purposes of research and study, all of the foregoing in accordance with the applicable Regulations. The National Assembly shall have the power to create or abolish Standing Committees by the favorable vote of two thirds of the members of the Assembly.
The National Assembly shall elect among its members one President and two Vice-Presidents, as well as one Secretary and an Undersecretary, not member of the Assembly, for a term of one year. The Regulations shall establish the methods for filling temporary and permanent vacancies.
While the Assembly is in recess, a Delegated Committee consisting of the President, the Vice-President and the Presidents of the Standing Committees shall be in session.
The following are powers of the Delegated Committee:
- To call the National Assembly into extraordinary session, when the importance of any matter so demands.
- To authorize the President of the Republic to leave the territory of Venezuela.
- To authorize the National Executive to order additional appropriations.
- To designate temporary Committees consisting of members of the Assembly.
- To execute investigations functions ascribed to the Assembly.
- By a two thirds vote of its members, to authorize the National Executive to create, modify or suspend public services in the event of a proven emergency.
- Any others established by the Constitution or by law.
Section Three. Deputies of the National Assembly
Deputies of the National Assembly, are obligated to work on a full- time basis for the benefit of the people’s interest, and to stay in constant contact with their constituents, heeding these opinions and suggestions and keeping them informed about its individual and Assembly Management. They shall render in an annual accounting of its management to the constituents in the jurisdiction from which they were elected, and shall be subject to recall by referendum as provided for under this Constitution and the applicable law.
A Deputy of the National Assembly who is recalled shall not be eligible for any public elective office during the following term of office.
Deputies of the National Assembly are not liable for votes and opinions expressed in the performance of their official functions. They shall be answerable to voters and to the legislative entity only as provided for under the Constitution and Regulations.
Deputies of the National Assembly shall enjoy immunity in the exercise of their functions from the time of their installation until the end of their term or resignation. Only the Supreme Tribunal of Justice shall have competence over any crimes may be charged as committed by members of the National Assembly, and only the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, subject to authorization in advance from the National Assembly, shall have the power to order their arrest and prosecution. In the case of a flagrant offense committed by a legislator, the competent authority shall place such legislator under house arrest and immediately notify the Supreme Tribunal of Justice of such event.
Public officials who violate the immunity of members of the National Assembly shall incur criminal liability and shall be punished in accordance with law.
Deputies are representatives of the people and of the States taken together, they are not subject to mandates or instructions, but only to their own consciences. Their vote in the National Assembly is personal.
Section Four. Passage of Laws
The law is an act enacted by the National Assembly in legislative session. Laws that contain a systematic set of norms regulating a particular field may also be referred to as codes.
Organic Laws are those designated as such by this Constitution, those enacted to organize public powers or developing constitutional rights, and those which serve as a normative framework for other laws.
Any bill for the enactment of an organic law, except in the case of those defined as such in the Constitution itself, must first be accepted by the National Assembly, by a two thirds vote of the members present, before the beginning of debate on the bill. This qualifying vote shall also apply to the process of amending organic acts.
Laws defined by the National Assembly as organic acts shall be sent, prior to promulgation, to the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice for a ruling on the constitutionality of their organic status. The Constitutional Division shall reach a decision within ten days of receipt of the communication. If the Constitutional Division rules that the law is not organic, such the law shall lose the organic status.
Enabling laws are those enacted by a three fifths vote of the members of the National Assembly to establish the guidelines, purposes and framework for matters that are being delegated to the President of the Republic, with the rank and force of a law. Enabling law is to set the period for the exercising thereof.
The initiative for introducing legislation belongs to:
- The National Executive Power.
- The Delegated Committee and the Standing Committees.
- Members of the National Assembly, at least three in number.
- The Supreme Tribunal of Justice, in the case of laws relating to judicial procedures and organization.
- Citizen Power, in the case of laws relating to the organs comprising the same.
- Electoral Power in the case of laws relating to electoral matters.
- The voters, in a number at least equivalent to 0.1% of all permanently registered voters.
- The State Legislative Council, in the case of laws relating to the States.
The discussion of bills submitted by citizens in accordance with the provisions of the preceding article shall be initiated no later than the regular legislative session following that during which the bill was introduced. If debate does not begin within such period, the bill must be submitted for approval by referendum in accordance with law.
The States must be consulted by the National Assembly, through the State Legislative Council, when legislation in matters relating to them is being considered. The mechanisms for consultation of citizens and other institutions by the Council with respect to such matters shall be established by law.
To be enacted into law, every bill shall be debated twice, on different days, following the rules established in this Constitution and the pertinent regulations. Once the bill is approved, the President of the National Assembly shall declare the law enacted.
During the first debate, the statement of legislative intent shall be considered and the objectives, scope and viability of the same shall be evaluated in order to determine the appropriateness of the law, and the articles shall be discussed. Upon approval at the first debate, the bill shall be sent to the Committee directly concerned with the subject matter of the law. If the bill relates to several Standing Committees, a mixed committee shall be designated to conduct a study and prepare a report.
Committees studying bills shall report the bill out within no more than 30 consecutive days.
Once the bill has been reported out of committee, the second debate on the bill shall begin, being conducted article by article. If the bill is approved without amendment, it shall be enacted into law. However, if amended it shall be returned to the Committee concerned for inclusion of the amendments by such Committee within no more than 15 consecutive days; once read the new version of the bill at a plenary session of the National Assembly, it shall decide as appropriate by majority vote on any articles as to which a discrepancy exists, and on any other articles relating thereto. Once the discrepancy has been resolved, the President shall declare the bill enacted into law.
Debate on bills still pending at the end of a legislative session may be continued during the next regular session or during a special session.
During the process of debating and approval of bills, the National Assembly or Standing Committees shall consult the other organs of the State, the citizenry and organized society to hear their opinion about the same. The following shall have the right to speak during debates on proposed laws: the Cabinet Ministers, as representatives of the Executive Power; such justice of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice as the latter may designate, to represent the Judicial Power; such representative of Citizen Power as may be designated by the Republican Ethic Council; the members of the Electoral Authority; the States, through a representative designated by the State Legislative Council; and the representatives of organized society, on such terms as may be established by the Regulations of the National Assembly.
The text of laws shall be preceded by the following phrase: “The National Assembly of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela hereby Decrees:”
Once the law has been enacted, it shall be promulgated in duplicate with the final language as approved during the debates. Both copies shall be signed by the President, the two Vice Presidents and the Secretary of the National Assembly, with the date of final approval. One of the copies of the law shall be sent by the President of the National Assembly to the President of the Republic for purposes of promulgation.
The President of the Republic shall promulgate the law within a ten day period following the date on which the President receives it. During this period the President may, by Cabinet Ministers resolution with statement of grounds, ask the National Assembly to amend any of the provisions of the law or rescind its approval of part or all of it.
The National Assembly shall decide by majority vote of those deputies present on the matters raised by the President of the Republic, and then shall send the law back to him for promulgation.
The President of the Republic must proceed to promulgate the law within five days of receipt, without the possibility of new objections. When the President of the Republic considers that the law or any of its articles is unconstitutional, he shall be required to request a ruling from the Constitutional Division of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, within the ten day period allowed the President for promulgating the law. The Supreme Tribunal of Justice shall reach a decision within 15 days of receipt of the communication from the President of the Republic. If the Tribunal declines to rule the provisions referred to it unconstitutional or fails to reach a decision within the aforementioned period, the President of the Republic must promulgate the law within five days of the Tribunal’s decision or the expiration of such term.
The law shall be promulgated upon publication with the order of “fulfillment” in the Official Gazette of the Republic.
When the President of the Republic fails to promulgate the law on the terms indicated above, the President and the two Vice Presidents of the National Assembly shall proceed to promulgate it, without prejudice to such liability as the President of the Republic may incur by reason of his omission.
The point at which the approving law of an international treaty, agreement or convention must be promulgated shall be left to the discretion of the National Executive, in accordance with international practices and the convenience of the Republic.
Laws are repealed by other laws and are abrogated by referendum, subject to the exceptions established in this Constitution. Laws may be amended in whole or in part. A law that is amended in part shall be published in a single text that incorporates the amendments passed.
Section Five. Procedures
The first regular legislative session of the National Assembly shall begin, without advance notice, on January fifth of each year or on the first subsequent day possible, and shall continue until August 15.
The second session shall begin on September 15 or the first subsequent day possible, and shall end on December 15.
The National Assembly shall meet in special sessions to take up the matters on the agenda contained in the notice of the meeting, and any related matters. A special session may also consider any matters declared urgent by a majority vote of the members.
The requirements and procedures for the establishment and other sessions of the National Assembly, and for the functioning of its Committees, shall be determined by the Regulations.
In no case may a quorum be less than an absolute majority of the members of the National Assembly.
The National Assembly shall be empowered to exercise its control function by means of the following mechanisms: parliamentary questions, investigations, questions, authorizations and parliament’s approvals as provided for in this Constitution and by law, and any other mechanism that may be established by laws and their associated Regulations. In exercising parliamentary control, the National Assembly shall have the power to make a finding of political liability on the part of public officials and call on Citizen Power to initiate the appropriate action to enforce such liability.
The Assembly or its Committees shall have the power to conduct such investigations as they may deem appropriate in matters within their competence, in accordance with the Regulations.
All public officials are obligated, subject to the penalties established by law, to appear before such Committees and provide the same with any information and documents they may require in order to carry out their functions.
Private citizens are also subject to this obligation, without prejudice to the rights and guarantees embodied in this Constitution.
The exercise of the power of investigation does not affect the powers of other public authorities Judges shall be obligated to take evidence as commissioned by National Assembly and its Committees.
Chapter II. National Executive Power
Section One. President of the Republic
Executive Power is exercised by the President of the Republic, the Executive Vice-President, the Cabinet Ministers and other officials as determined by this Constitution and by law.
The President of the Republic is the Head of State and of the National Executive, in which latter capacity he directs the action of the government.
In order to be elected President of the Republic, it is necessary to be Venezuelan by birth, with no other nationality, to be more than 30 years of age, not a member of the clergy and not subject to any conviction by final judgment, as well as meeting fulfill other requirements prescribed in this Constitution.
The election of the President of the Republic shall be by universal suffrage by direct and secret ballot, in accordance with law. The candidate who has received a majority of the valid votes cast shall be proclaimed elected.
A person holding the office of Executive Vice-President, Minister or Governor, or Mayor as of the date he announces his candidacy or at any time between such date and that of the Presidential election shall not be eligible for election to the office of President of the Republic.
The presidential term is of six years. The President [masculine] or President [feminine] of the Republic may be re-elected.
The candidate elected shall take office as President of the Republic on January 10 of the first year of his constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly. If for any supervening reason, the person elected President of the Republic cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, he shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
The President of the Republic is responsible for his acts and for fulfilling the duties and obligations inherent to such position.
Is obligated to endeavor the guarantee of the rights and liberties of Venezuelans, as well as the independence, integrity, sovereignty and defense of the Republic. The declaration of states of exception does not modify the principle of the President of the Republic’s responsibility nor that of the Executive Vice President or the Cabinet Ministers, in accordance with this Constitution and law.
The President of the Republic shall become permanently unavailable to serve by reason of any of the following events: death; resignation; removal from office by decision of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice; permanent physical or mental disability certified by a medical board designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice with the approval of the National Assembly; abandonment of his position, duly declared by the National Assembly; and recall by popular vote.
When an elected President becomes permanently unavailable to serve prior to his inauguration, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the President of the National Assembly shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.
When the President of the Republic becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the first four years of this constitutional term of office, a new election by universal suffrage and direct ballot shall be held within 30 consecutive days. Pending election and inauguration of the new President, the Executive Vice-President shall take charge of the Presidency of the Republic.
In the cases describes above, the new President shall complete the current constitutional term of office.
If the President becomes permanently unavailable to serve during the last two years of his constitutional term of office, the Executive Vice-President shall take over the Presidency of the Republic until such term is completed.
A President of the Republic who becomes temporarily unavailable to serve shall be replaced by the Executive Vice-President for a period of up to 90 days, which may be extended by resolution of the National Assembly for an additional 90 days.
If the temporarily unavailability continues for more than 90 consecutive days, the National Assembly shall have the power to decide by a majority vote of its members whether the unavailability to serve should be considered permanent.
The absence of the President of the Republic from the territory of Venezuela requires authorization from the National Assembly or the Delegated Committee, when such absence continues for a period exceeding five consecutive days.
Section Two. The President of the Republic
The following are attributions and duties of the President of the Republic:
- To comply with and enforce this Constitution and the law.
- To direct the activity of the Government.
- To appoint and remove the Executive Vice-President and the Cabinet Ministers.
- To direct the international relations of the Republic and sign and ratify international treaties, agreements or conventions.
- To direct the National Armed Forces in his capacity as Commander in Chief, exercise supreme hierarchical Authority over the same and establish their contingent.
- To exercise supreme command over the National Armed Forces, promote their officers at the rank of colonel or naval captain and above, and appoint them to the positions exclusively reserved to them.
- To declare states of exception and order the restriction of guarantees in the cases provided for under this Constitution.
- To issue executive orders having the force of law, subject to authorization in advance by an enabling act.
- To call special sessions of the National Assembly.
- To issue regulations for the application of laws, in whole or in part, without altering the spirit, purpose and reason for being of the laws.
- To administer the National Public Treasury.
- To negotiate national loans.
- To order extraordinary budget item in addition to the budget, subject to authorization in advance from the National Assembly or the Delegated Committee.
- To enter into contracts in the national interest, subject to this Constitution and applicable laws.
- To designate, subject to prior authorization from the National Assembly or the Delegated Committee, the Attorney-General of the Republic and the heads of the permanent diplomatic missions.
- To designate and remove those officials whose appointment is made subject to his discretion by this Constitution or the applicable law.
- To address reports or special messages to the National Assembly, either in person or through the Executive Vice-President.
- To formulate the National Development Plan and, subject to approval in advance from the National Assembly, direct the implementation of the same.
- To grant pardons.
- To determine the number, organization and competence of the Ministries and other organs comprising the National Public Administrative Branch, as well as the organization and functions of the Cabinet Ministers, within the principles and guidelines set forth in the pertinent organic law.
- To dissolve the National Assembly in the case contemplated by this Constitution.
- To call reference in the cases provided for under the present Constitution.
- To call and preside over meetings of the National Defense Council.
- Any others vested in the President under this Constitution and law.
The President of the Republic shall exercise during a meeting of the Cabinet Ministers the attributions indicated under items (7), (8), (9), (10), (12), (13), (14), (18), (20), (21) and (22) above, and any others which may be conferred upon him by law for exercise in the same manner.
In order to be valid, the acts of the President of the Republic, with the exception of those indicated under items (3) and (5), must be countersigned by the Executive vice-president and the Minister or Ministers concerned.
Annually, within the first ten days following to installation of the National Assembly, in ordinary session, the President of the Republic, shall present personally to the Assembly a message by which will render account of the political, economic, social and administrative aspects of its administration during the past year.
Section Three. Executive Vice-President
The Executive Vice-President is a direct subordinate of and works closely with the President of the Republic in the latter’s capacity as Head of the National Executive.
The Executive Vice-President must meet the same requirements prescribes for eligibility for the office of President of the Republic, and must not be related to the latter by either blood or marriage.
The following are powers of the Executive Vice-President:
- To cooperate with the President of the Republic in directing the actions of the government.
- To coordinate the National Public Administration in accordance with President of the Republic’s instructions.
- To propose to the President of the Republic the appointment and removal of Ministers.
- To preside over the Cabinet, subject to authorization in advance from the President of the Republic.
- To coordinate relations between the National Executive and the National Assembly.
- To preside over the Federal Government Council.
- To appoint and remove, in accordance with law, those national government officials for whose designation no other authority has been made responsible.
- To replace the President of the Republic when the latter is temporarily unavailable.
- To exercise such powers as may be delegated to him by the President of the Republic.
- Any other powers assigned to him under the Constitution and the law.
Passage of a motion to censure the Executive Vice President, by vote of at least two-thirds of the members of the National Assembly, automatically involves his removal from office. The removed official, shall not be eligible to serve as Executive Vice President or Minister, for the remainder of the current presidential term of office.
The third removal of an Executive Vice- President, during the same presidential term of office as a consequence of motions of censure, authorizes the President of the Republic, to dissolve the National Assembly. The dissolution order includes the calling of elections to form a new legislature within 60 days of the dissolution of the old.
The Assembly cannot be dissolved during the final year of its constitutional term of office.
The Executive Vice-President is accountable for his acts, in accordance with this Constitution and the law. Section Four: Ministers and the Cabinet of Ministers
Section Four. Ministers and the Cabinet of Ministers
Ministers are direct dependencies of the President of the Republic, and when assembled together with the latter and with the Executive Vice-President, they comprise the Cabinet of Ministers.
The President of the Republic shall preside over meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers, but he shall have the power to authorize the Executive Vice President to preside over the same when he is unable to attend. Decisions made must be ratified by the President of the Republic.
The Executive Vice-President and the Ministers who took part are jointly and severally accountable for decisions of the Cabinet of Ministers, with the exception of those who placed on record an adverse or negative vote.
The President of the Republic shall have the power to appoint Ministers of State, who, in addition to participating in the Cabinet of Ministers, shall advise the President of the Republic and the Executive Vice President concerning the matters assigned to them.
A Minister is required to be of Venezuelan nationality and more than 25 years of age, with the exceptions established in this Constitution.
Ministers are responsible for their actions in accordance with this Constitution and in accordance with law, and shall submit to the National Assembly, within the first 60 days of each year, a sufficient and reasoned annual report on their stewardship during the past year, in accordance with law.
Ministers have the right to speak before the National Assembly and the Committees thereof. They have the right to take part in debates in the National Assembly, without the right to vote.
The approbation of a vote of censure against a Minister by at least a three fifths vote of the members present in the National Assembly, shall result in the Minister’s removal from office. The removed official shall be barred from serving as a Minister or Executive Vice-President for the remainder of that presidential term.
Section Five. General Attorney of the Republic
The Office of the General Attorney of the Republic advises, defends and represents in and out of court the property interests of the Republic, and must be consulted for purposes of approval of contracts in the national public interest.
The pertinent organic law shall determine the organization, competence and functioning of this office.
The Office of the General Attorney of the Republic shall be in the charge and under the direction of the General Attorney’ of the Republic, with the assistance of other officials as determined by the pertinent organic law.
The General Attorney of the Republic must meet the same conditions required in order to serve as a justice of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Shall be appointed by the President of the Republic, with the authorization of the National Assembly.
The General Attorney of the Republic shall attend and have the right to speak at meetings of the Cabinet of Ministers.
Section Six. Council of State
The Council of State is the highest consultative organ of the Government and the National Public Administration. It shall be charged with making policy recommendations in the national interest with regard to matters recognized by the President of the Republic as being of particular importance and requiring the Council’s opinion.
The pertinent law shall determine its functions and powers.
The Council of State shall be presided over by the Executive Vice President, and shall be also integrated by five members designated by the President of the Republic; one representative designated by the National Assembly; one representative designated by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and One State Governor designated by all of the States chief executives jointly.
Chapter III. Judicial Power and Justice System
Section One. General Provisions
The power to administer justice emanates from the citizens and is exercised in the name of the Republic by authority of law.
The organs comprising the Judicial Power are charged with dealing with all cases and matters within their competence, through such procedures as may be determined by the laws, and with carrying out or causing the execution of their judgments.
The justice system consists of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, such other courts as may be determined by law, the Office of Public Prosecutions, the Public Defender’s Office, criminal investigation organs, judicial assistants and officials, the penitentiary system, alternative means of justice, citizens participating in the administration of justice in accordance with law and attorneys at law admitted to practice.
The Judicial Power is autonomous, and the operating, financial and administrative autonomy of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice is hereby established. To this end, in the national general budget a variable annual amount at least equivalent to 2% of the ordinary national budget shall be allocated to the justice system in order to enable it to function effectively; such amount shall not be reduced or modified without authorization in advance from the National Assembly. The Judicial Power is not authorized to establish any charges or tariffs, nor to demand any payment for its services.
Appointment to a judicial position and the promotion of judges shall be carried out by means of public competitions to ensure the capability and excellence of the participants, with selection by the juries of the judicial circuits, in such manner and on such terms as may be established by law. The appointment and swearing in of judges shall be the responsibility of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. Citizen participation in the process of selecting and designating judges shall be guaranteed by law. Judges shall be removed or suspended from office only through the procedures expressly provided for by law.
Measures shall be taken by law to promote the professionalism of judges, and the universities shall cooperate to this end, organizing their corresponding law schools curricula to specialized studies in judicial practice.
Judges are personally liable, on such terms as may be determined by law, for unjustified omissions, delay or errors, for substantial failure to observe the rules of procedure, for denial of justice, for partiality and for the criminal offenses of bribery and prevarication in office.
In order to guarantee impartiality and independence in the exercise of their official functions, magistrates, judges, prosecutors in the Office of Public Prosecutions and public defenders, from the date of their appointment until they leave office, shall not be permitted, otherwise than by exercising their right to vote, to engage in partisan political, professional association, trade union or similar activism; nor to engage in private activities for profit which are incompatible with their official functions, either directly or through any interposed person; nor to perform any other public functions, with the exception of educational activities.
Judges shall not be permitted to form associations among themselves
Procedure represents a fundamental instrument for the administration of justice. Procedural laws shall provide for the simplification, uniformity and efficiency of legal formalities, and shall adopt expeditious, oral and public procedures. Justice shall not be sacrificed because of the omission of nonessential formalities.
Justice of peace in communities shall be organized by law. Justices of peace shall be elected by universal suffrage, directly and by secret ballot, in accordance with law.
The law shall encourage arbitration, conciliation, mediation and any other alternative means for resolving conflicts.
Competence over contentious administrative law proceedings shall be vested in the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and such other courts as may be determined by law. Organs with jurisdiction in the field of contentious administrative law are competent to nullify general or individual administrative acts contrary to law, including cases of power deviation; to order the payment of sums of money and reparations for damages for whose causation the Administration is responsible; to deal with claims arising from the providing of public services; and to rule as necessary to restore the legal position of parties harmed by administrative actions.
The legitimate authorities of the native peoples shall have the power to apply within their territorial competence levels of administration of justice based on their ancestral traditions and affecting their members only, in accordance to their own rules and proceedings, provided the same are not contrary to this Constitution, law and public order. The manner in which this special competence shall be coordinated with the national judicial system shall be determined by law.
Military criminal jurisdiction is an integral part of the Judicial Power, and its judges shall be selected by a competitive process. Its sphere of competence, organization and modes of operation shall be governed by the accusatory system and in accordance with the Organic Code of Military Justice. The commission of common crimes, human rights violations and violations of humanity rights shall be judged by the courts of the ordinary jurisdiction. Military courts jurisdiction is limited to offenses of a military nature.
Insofar as not provided for in this Constitution, special jurisdiction and the competence, organization and functioning of the courts shall be regulated by law.
Section Two. Supreme Tribunal of Justice
The Supreme Tribunal of Justice shall sit in plenary session and in Constitutional, Political/Administrative, Electoral, Civil Appeal, Criminal Appeal, and Social Appeal Divisions, whose composition and competence shall be determined by the pertinent organic act.
The Social Division shall encompass matters relating to appeals involving agrarian matters, labor matters and minors.
To be a justice of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, a person must:
- Have Venezuelan nationality by birth.
- Be recognized as an honorable citizen.
- Be a jurist of recognized competence; enjoy a good reputation; have a minimum of 15 years experience practicing law and have a post graduate degree in law, or have at least 15 years experience as a university professor of law, having obtained the rank of full professor; or be or have been a superior court judge in the specialty of the division for which he is a candidate, having been a sitting judge for at least 15 years and gained recognized prestige in the performance of his duties.
- Any other requirements established by law.
The justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice shall be elected for a single term of 12 years. The election procedure shall be determined by law. In all cases, candidates may be proposed to the Judicial Nominations Committee either on their own initiative or by organizations involved in the field of law. After hearing the opinion of the community, the Committee shall carry out a pre selection to be submitted to the Citizen Power, which shall carry out a second pre selection to be submitted to the National Assembly, which shall carry out the final selection.
Citizens may file objections to any of the candidates, for cause, with the Judicial Nominations Committee or the National Assembly.
Justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice may be removed by the National Assembly by a qualified two-thirds majority of the members, after granting the interested party a hearing; in cases involving serious misconduct already characterized as such by the Citizen Power, on such terms as may be established by law.
The following are powers of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice:
- To exercise constitutional jurisdiction in accordance with title VIII of this Constitution.
- To rule as to whether or not there are grounds for impeaching the President of the Republic or whomever may be acting in that capacity, and if so, to retain competence of the proceedings, subject to the approval of the National Assembly, until the final judgment.
- To rule as to whether or not there are grounds for impeaching the Vice President of the Republic; members of the National Assembly or the Supreme Tribunal of Justice itself, Ministers; the General Attorney; General Prosecutor; General Comptroller of the Republic; the People Defender; Governors; general officers and naval admirals of the National Armed Forces; or the heads of Venezuelan diplomatic missions; and, if so, to refer the record to the General Prosecutor of the Republic or whomever is acting in his capacity, where appropriate, and if the offense charged is a common crime, the Supreme Tribunal of Justice shall retain competence of the matter until a final judgment is handed down.
- To resolve any administrative controversies that may arise between the Republic, any State, Municipality or other public entity, when the other party is also one of these same organs, except in the case of a controversy between Municipalities belonging to the same State, in which case competence may be vested by law in another court.
- To declare null and void, in whole or in part, regulations and other general or individual administrative actions of the National Executive Branch, where appropriate.
- To take competence of motions for declaratory judgment on the content and application of legal texts, on the terms contemplated by law.
- To decide competence conflicts between courts, whether ordinary or special, when there is no higher or common court shared by both in the hierarchical order.
- To take jurisdiction of appeals for violations of law.
- Such others as may be vested in it by law.
The powers indicated under (1) shall be exercised by the Constitutional Division; those indicated under (2) and (3), in Plenary Session; and those indicated under (4) and (5), by the Political/Administrative Division. The remaining powers shall be exercised by the various divisions as provided for under this Constitution and by law.
Section Three. Governance and Administration of the Judicial Power
The Supreme Tribunal of Justice is charged with the direction, governance and administration of the Judicial Power and inspection and vigilance of the courts of the Republic and the public defenders’ offices. The Supreme Tribunal is also charged with preparing and implementing its own budget and that of the Judicial Power.
Jurisdiction over judicial discipline shall be vested in such disciplinary courts as may be determined by law.
The discipline system for magistrates and judges shall be based in the Venezuelan Judge’s Code of Ethics to be promulgated by the National Assembly. Disciplinary proceedings shall be public, oral and expeditious, in accordance with due process, subject to such terms and conditions as may be established by law.
In order to exercise these powers, the Supreme Tribunal in plenary session shall create an Executive Department of the Judiciary, with its various regional offices.
The autonomy and organization, functioning, discipline and fitness of service of public defenders shall be provided for by law, in order to ensure the efficiency of the service and guarantee career benefits for public defenders.
The organization of judicial circuits and the creation and competence of regional courts and tribunals shall be regulated by law in such manner as to promote the administrative and jurisdictional decentralization of the Judicial Power.
The Committee on Judicial Nominations is a body charged with advising the Judicial Power on the selection of candidates for designation as justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. In addition, it shall advise the judicial electoral colleges on the election of judge, of disciplinary jurisdiction. The Committee on Judicial Nominations shall be made up of representatives of the various sectors of society, in accordance with such provisions as may be established by law.
Extradition of foreign nationals responsible for capital delegitimization, drug, and international organized crime offenses, as well as crimes against the public patrimony of other States and against human rights, shall in no case be denied. Judicial proceedings for the purpose of punishing offenses against human rights or public patrimony, or drug trafficking, shall not be barred by the statute of limitations. Likewise, subject to court order, assets deriving from the activities relating to these offenses shall be confiscated.
Proceedings pertaining to the aforementioned offenses shall be public, oral and expeditious, with respect for due process, the competent judicial authorities being authorized to order the necessary preventive precautionary measures against assets belonging to the defendant or persons interposed by the latter, in order to provide a guarantee for their possible civil liability.
The State guarantees a penitentiary system such as to ensure the rehabilitation of inmates and respect for their human rights. To this end, penitentiary establishments shall have areas for work, study, sports and recreation, shall operate under the direction of professional penologists with academic credentials, and will be ruled by decentralized administration by state or municipal governments; they may be subject to privatization arrangements. In such establishments, an open regimen shall be preferred, as well as the model of custodial agricultural colonies. In all cases punishment formulas without restriction of freedom shall be applied with preference to measures that restrict freedom. The State shall create the essential institutions to provide post- penitentiary assistance for the reinsertion of the inmate into society and shall encourage the creation of an autonomous penitentiary institution with personnel of an exclusively technical nature.
Chapter IV. Citizen Power
Section One. General Provisions
Citizen Power is exercised by the Republican Ethics Council, consisting of the People Defender, the General Prosecutor and the General Comptroller of the Republic.
The organs of Citizen Power are the People Defender’s Office, the Office of Public Prosecutions and the Office of the General Comptroller of the Republic, one of whose heads shall be designated by the Republican Ethics Council as its Chairman for a one-year term of office, with the possibility of re-election.
Citizen Power is independent and its organs enjoy operating, financial and administrative autonomy. To this end, from the general State budget it shall be allocated a variable annual budget appropriation.
Its organization and operation shall be established by organic act.
The organs exercising Citizen Power are charged, in accordance with this Constitution and with the law, with preventing, investigating and punishing actions that undermine public ethics and administrative morals; to see to sound management and legality in the use of public property, and fulfillment and application of the principle of legality in all of the State’s administrative activities, as well as to promote education as a process that helps create citizenship, together with solidarity, freedom, democracy, social responsibility and work.
The representatives of the Republican Ethic Council shall issue to the authorities or officials of the National Public Administrative warnings as to breaches in the fulfillment of their legal duties. If these warnings are not heeded, the Republican Ethics Council shall have the power to impose the penalties established by law. In the event of contempt, the Chairman of the Republican Ethics Council shall submit a report to the organ or dependency to which the public official or employee concerned is attached, in order that such body or dependency to take the proper corrective action, in accordance to the case without prejudice to such penalties as may be applicable in accordance with law.
The Chairman of the Republican Ethic Council and the heads of the organs comprising Citizen Power shall submit an annual report before a plenary session of the National Assembly. They shall likewise submit reports whenever asked by the National Assembly to do so.
Both the regular and the special reports are to be published.
All officials of the National Public Administrative are obligated, subject to such penalties as may be established by law, to cooperate on an urgent priority basis with representatives of the Republican Ethics Council in connection with the latter’s investigations. The Council shall have the power to ask them for such statements and documents as it may deem necessary in order to perform its functions; this includes any documents that may have been classified or catalogues as confidential or secret in accordance with law. In all cases, Citizen Power shall release information contained in confidential or secret documents only through such procedures as may be established by law.
The Republican Ethic Council shall promote all types of teaching activities designed to contribute to the understanding and study of this Constitution; love for the native land, civic and democratic virtues and the transcendental values of the Republic; and observance of and respect for human rights.
The Republican Ethic Council shall convene a Citizen Power nomination Evaluating Committee, which shall be made up of a group of representatives from various sectors of society, and shall conduct public proceedings resulting in the provision of a list of three candidates from each organ member of the Citizen Power to be submitted for consideration by the National Assembly, which, by a two-thirds vote of its members, shall select within 30 calendar days the member of the Citizen Power organ under consideration in each case. If the National Assembly has not reached an agreement by the end of this period, Electoral shall submit the list of three candidates to a public referendum.
If the Citizen Power Nomination Evaluating Committee has not been convoked, the National Assembly shall proceed, within such time limit as may be determined by law, to designate the member of the pertinent Citizen Power organ.
Members of Citizen Power shall be subject to removal by the National Assembly, following a ruling by the Supreme Tribunal of Justice, in accordance with the procedure established by law.
Section Two. People Defender’s Office
The People Defender’s Office is charged with the furtherance, defense and oversight of the rights and guarantees established under this Constitution and international treaties on human rights, in addition to defending the legitimate, collective and diffuse interest of the citizens.
The People Defender’s Office shall act under the direction and responsibility of the People Defender, who shall be designated to serve for a single seven-year term.
The People Defender must be a Venezuelan national over the age of 30 years, with manifest and proven competence in the field of human rights, and must meet with such requirements as to honesty, ethics and morality as may be established by law. If the People Defender is temporarily or permanently unavailable to serve, the vacancy shall be filled in accordance with applicable provisions of law.
The following are functions of the People Defender:
- To see that the human rights provided for in this Constitution and in the international treaties, agreements and conventions on human rights ratified by the Republic are effectively respected and guaranteed, investigating either on his own initiative or at the request of any denunciation of which he or she becomes aware.
- To see to the proper functioning of public services; protect and defend the legitimate, collective and diffuse rights and interests of persons against arbitrary acts, abuse of authority and errors committed in the providing of such public services, filing when appropriate, any actions to demand that the State compensate parties subject to its administrative actions for any damages that may have been caused them in connection with the functioning of such public services.
- To file unconstitutionality actions, summary constitutional remedies, habeas corpus, habeas data and any other actions or motions necessary in order to exercise the powers indicated above, where proper in accordance with law.
- To urge the General Prosecutor of the Republic to pursue any appropriate actions or motions against public Officials responsible for violations of or encroachment upon human rights.
- To ask the Republican Ethic Council to take the appropriate measures with regard to public officials responsible for violations of or encroachment upon human rights.
- To ask the competent authority to apply appropriate corrective and punitive measures in cases involving violations of the rights of consumers and users, in accordance with law.
- To submit to legislative organs at the municipal, state or national levels, bills or other initiatives for the progressive protection of human rights.
- To protect the rights of native peoples and take such action as may be necessary to guarantee and protect such rights effectively.
- To visit and inspect the dependencies and establishments of State agencies, to prevent or protect human rights.
- To place before the appropriate organs recommendations and observations as necessary in the interest of providing optimum protection for human rights, to which end shall develop mechanisms for remaining in constant communication with national and international public and private organs for the protection and defense of human rights.
- To promote and implement policies for the expansion and effective protection of human rights.
- Such other functions as may be established by the Constitution and by law.
The People Defender shall enjoy immunity in the exercise of his functions, and therefore shall not be subject to pursuit, arrest or prosecution for acts relating to the performance of his official functions. In any such case, exclusive competence shall be vested in the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
Matters relating to the organization and functioning of the People Defender’s Office at the municipal, state, national, and special levels shall be determined by law. The activities of this Office shall be governed by the principles of gratuitous service, accessibility, dispatch, freedom from formalities, and proceeding on own initiative.
Section Three. Office of Public Prosecutions
The Office of Public Prosecutions shall be under the direction and responsibility of the General Prosecutor of the Republic, who shall perform his functions directly, with the assistance of such officials as may be determined by law.
To be General Prosecutor of the Republic, a person must meet the same eligibility requirements that apply to justices of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. The General Prosecutor of the Republic shall be designated for a seven year term.
The following are functions of the Office of Public Prosecutions:
- In judicial proceedings, to guarantee respect for constitutional rights and guarantees, as well as those deriving from international treaties, agreements and conventions signed by the Republic.
- To guarantee the speedy trail of the judicial process, the right to previous trial and a due process.
- To order and direct criminal investigation of the perpetration of punishable acts, with a view to establishing that the same were committed, with all circumstances that may be relevant to stating the offense and establishing the responsibility of the perpetrators and other participants, as well as to secure custody of the objects actively and passively concerned with the perpetration of the offense.
- To conduct on behalf of the State criminal prosecutions in those cases in which no initiative on the part of a party is required in order to initiate or continue such prosecution, with the exceptions established by law.
- To file any appropriate actions to hold liable public officials who have incurred civil, labor, military, criminal, administrative or disciplinary liability the course of their official duties.
- Any other functions that may be assigned to this office by the Constitution and by law.
These attributions do not discredit the exercise of any rights or actions to which private parties or other officials may be entitled in accordance with this Constitution and the law.
Matters relating to the organization and functioning of the Office of Public Prosecutions at the municipal, state and national levels shall be determined by law, providing the appropriate measures to ensure the suitability, probity and stable tenure of the attorneys of the Office of Public Prosecutions. Rules to guarantee the exercise of these functions by career personnel shall also be established by law.
Section Four. Office of the General Comptroller of the Republic
The Office of the General Comptroller of the Republic is the organ that controls, watches and audits revenues, expenses, public and national property and transactions relating to the same. It enjoys operating, administrative and organizational autonomy, and concentrates its activities on functions relating to inspection of the organs and entities under its oversight.
The Office of the General Comptroller of the Republic shall be under the direction and responsibility of the General Comptroller of the Republic, who must be Venezuelan, over 30 years of age and possessed of proven ability and experience for purposes of performing the duties of the position.
The General Comptroller of the Republic shall be designated for a seven-year term.
The following are functions of the General Comptroller of the Republic:
- To control, make vigilance and audit public revenues, expenses and property, as well as transactions relating to the same, without prejudice to the functions vested in other organs, in the case of the States and Municipalities, in accordance with law.
- To control the public debt, without prejudice to the functions vested in other organs, in the case of the States and Municipalities, in accordance with law.
- To inspect and audit the public-sector, organs, entities and juridical persons subject to his control, conduct audits, order the opening of investigations into irregularities against public patrimony, as well as order measures, raising objections and applying administrative penalties as appropriate, in accordance with law.
- To call on the General Prosecutor of the Republic to file the appropriate legal actions with regard to in actions and crimes committed against public patrimony, of which becomes aware in the course of performing his official functions.
- To exercise operating control and evaluate compliance with and the results of the public policies and decisions of the public-sector organs, entities and juridical persons subject to his control, as regards their revenues, expenses and property.
- Any other functions that may be vested in him by the Constitution and by law.
Matters relating to the organization and functioning of the Office of the General Comptroller of the Republic and the national tax control system shall be determined by law.
The Office of the General Comptroller of the Armed Forces is an integral part of the national control system. It shall be in charge of vigilance, control and auditing of public revenues, expenses and property allocated to the National Armed Forces and their dependencies, without prejudice to the scope and competence of the Office of the General Comptroller of the Republic. Its organization and functioning shall be determined by the pertinent law, and shall be under the responsibility of the General Comptroller of the Armed Forces, who shall be designated by means of a competitive process.
Chapter V. Electoral Power
Electoral Power is exercised by the National Electoral Council as governing body, and by the latter’s subordinate organs, the National Board of Elections, the Civil Status and Voter Registration Commission and the Commission on Political Participation and Financing, with organization and functioning as established under the pertinent organic law.
The following are functions of Electoral Power:
- To regulate election laws and resolve any doubts and unregulated areas raised by or contained in such laws.
- To prepare its budget, concerning which it shall handle directly with the National Assembly, and which it shall manage autonomously.
- To issue binding directives in the field of political and electoral advertising and financing, and impose penalties when such directives are not abided by.
- To declare elections null and void, either in whole or in part.
- Organization, administration, direction and vigilance of all acts relating to elections to fill public offices by popular vote, as well as referenda.
- To organize elections for labor unions, professional associations and organizations pursuing political purposes, in accordance with applicable provisions of law. Electoral Power shall also have the power to organize electoral processes for other organizations in civil society, either at their request or by order of the Electoral Division of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. The entities, organs and organizations concerned shall cover the costs of their election processes.
- To maintain, organize, direct and supervise the Civil and Electoral Registry.
- To organize the registration and enrollment of organizations pursuing a political purposes, and see that such organizations comply with the provisions governing their status, as set forth in the Constitution and law. In particular, Electoral Power shall decide on applications for the founding, renewal and cancellation of organizations for political purposes, the determination of their lawful authorities and provisional names, colors and symbols.
- To control, regulate and investigate the funds raised to finance organizations for political purposes.
- Such other functions as may be determined by law.
Electoral Power organs shall guarantee the equality, reliability, impartiality, transparency and efficiency of electoral processes, as well as implementation of the personalization of suffrage and proportional representation.
The organs comprising Electoral Power are governed by principles of organic independence, functional and budgetary autonomy, separation of the electoral organs from the political parties, impartiality and citizen participation, as well as decentralization of electoral administration, transparency and expeditiousness of the voting process and tallying of votes.
The Election Nominations Committee for candidates for membership seats on the National Electoral Council shall be made up of representatives of the various different sectors of society, as provided for by law.
The National Electoral Council shall consist of five members having no ties to organizations for political purposes; three of these shall be nominated by civil society, one by the schools of law and political science of the national universities, and one by the Citizen Power.
The three members nominated by civil society shall have six alternates in ordinal sequence, and each of the members designated by the universities and Citizen Power shall have respectively two alternates. The National Board of Elections, the Civil Status and Voter Registration Commission and the Commission on Political Participation and Financing shall each be presided over by a member designated by civil society. The members of the National Electoral Council shall hold office for seven years and shall be elected separately: the three nominated by civil society at the beginning of each term of office of the National Assembly , and the other two halfway through such term of office.
The members of the National Electoral Council shall be designated by a two thirds vote of the members of the National Assembly. The members of the National Electoral Council will designate their President among them in accordance with the Law.
The members of the National Electoral Council shall be subject to removal by the National Assembly, following a ruling of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice.
The contentious electoral jurisdiction shall be exercised by the Electoral Section of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice and any other Courts established by law.
The law regulating electoral process shall not be in any form modified in the period between the elections day and the preceding six months.