Formally the republic has no constitution because a law that establishes power of one person or state body is considered an element of authoritarianism.
The White Book of Fundamental Acts (El Libro Blanco de los Hechos Fundamentales) that comprises the basic three-sealed laws describing the functioning of the state is de facto constitution.
The parliament (Chamber of Representatives, Cámara de diputados) consists of 68 members:
- Forty members are elected once in four years by proportional representation system.
- Fifteen members are elected by majority system in the fifteen electoral districts. They are elected either directly, or by local municipal bodies.
- Five members are elected from the city of Fortaleza.
- One member is appointed by the Roman Catholic Church.
- One member is appointed by the General Staff of the army.
- One member is appointed by the Federation of Trade Unions (La Federación de los Sindicatos).
- One member is appointed by the National federation of Working Women (La Federación Nacional de las Trabajadoras).
- One member is appointed by the Christian Youth Association (La Asociación Cristiana de la Juventud).
- One member is appointed by the Mining and Industry National Association (La Asociación Nacional de Industria y Minería).
- One member is appointed by the Farming National Association (La Asociación Nacional de Agricultura).
- One member is appointed to represent the Native American tribes. He does not have the voting right because the tribes refuse to be taxed.
The parliament has the right to initiate and discuss legislation, but does not have the right to enact it.
Traditionally most members of parliament also serve as secretaries (ministers) or hold other public or state offices.
The Three Seals
The highest offices of the republic are the Holders of the Seals of the Republic (Tenientes de los Sellos de la República). There are three Seals, they are known as el Sello de rubí (Ruby Seal), el Sello de zafiro (Sapphire Seal), and el Sello de esmeralda (Emerald Seal). Even though it is not formally required, so far all the Seal Holders were acting members of parliament.
Any law or decree to be enacted has to be sealed with at least one of the Seals of the Republic. A law or decree may be revoked or modified only by a law sealed with the same number of seals or higher. If statements of two laws/decrees conflict with each other, the one more recently approved prevails.
Traditionally the Seal Holders divide between themselves the secretariats (ministries) and other executive organs of the republic, and every one of them issues decrees within his responsibility. Any decree may be revoked by another Seal Holder, but it is re-enacted when the third Seal Holder supports it. Seal Holder may grant a secretary an "iron seal", which gives him the power to enact his own regulations in the name of a Seal Holder who gave him the seal. These regulations may be revoked by any of the three Holders of the Seals of the Republic.
Normally the laws are discussed and composed in parliament and then sent to the Seal Holders, by whom they should be sealed with two seals. Later a law may be modified or revoked by another two-sealed law. One-sealed law may be passed only when other two Seal Holders don't object.
Three-sealed acts (hechos trisigilados) are identical to constitutional laws in other countries. They may be passed, modified, or revoked only with unanimous consent of all the three Seal Holders (i.e. by another three-sealed act).
Demanda de Sello
The members of parliament are divided into four factions: Ruby Seal Faction, Sapphire Seal Faction, Emerald Seal Faction, and Neutral Faction. Every member of parliament is free to join or leave any faction any time he wants, his membership in one of the factions has to be registered.
A group of neutral faction members larger than smallest of the three Seal Factions may put forward a candidate for Seal Holder position and demand a Seal — this procedure is known as demanda de Sello. During the procedure the parliament is presided by the Secretary of the Republic. When a candidate receives support of larger group of candidates than the smallest support group of a Seal Holder he takes away the Seal from him. During demanda de Sello members of parliament can change their faction membership several times. Usually the procedure is accompanied by heated debates (in 1992 two members of parliament were seriously injured).
The Secretary of the Republic
The Secretary of the Republic (El Secretario de la República) formally is the head of the state. He's very important figure in the functioning of the state, and his participation is required in many official procedures, even though formally he has no legal power to influence policy of the republic. This is one of the few offices that are forbidden to be occupied by a member of parliament. The Secretary of the Republic represents the republic on international level, and often acts as de facto foreign minister.
Since 2006, when Joaquín Vincente Alvarez left the position of Seal Holder to occupy the office, the Secretary of the Republic is both de jure and de facto national leader.
Table of the highest state office holders
The table below shows the holders of the highest offices of the republic (simplified):
|Holders of the Seals of the Republic||Secretary of the Republic|
|Emerald Seal||Ruby Seal||Sapphire Seal|
|1980||Alejandro Rodríguez||Felipe Arredondo||Benjamín Pérez||Mario Leonardi||1980|
|1981||José Benito Santovena||1981|
|1988||Francisco Salas||Felipe Arredondo||1988|
|1990||Salvador Castro||Augustín de la Fuente||1990|
|1991||Tomás Rojo||Francisco Fernandez Muro||1991|
|1998||Joaquín Vincente Alvarez||Alfredo Ignacio Lopez||1998|
|2000||Antonio Salazar||Marcelo Moreno Pacheco||2000|
|2004||Carlos Tomás Weinstein||2004|
|2006||Claudia Mandujano||Joaquín Vincente Alvarez||2006|
|Politicians considered rightists|
|Politicians considered leftists|
|Neutral and other politicians|