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The official end of judicial independence in Venezuela

By Daniel Duquenal

14.12.04.| Today the National Assembly named the new members of the TSJ, our High Court, based on the new law voted a few months ago. At least the opposition had the delicacy to step out of the assembly when the vote took place.

It is fair to say that today is a dark day in Venezuelan history. By packing the TSJ with 17 political appointees, the Government ensures that his already clear majority in the present Court will be a large one, a commanding one in every single of the different court halls that comprise the TSJ. In this new travesty of justice, if you want to have a chance to get at least a fair hearing you better show that you like Chavez. If a foreign company wants to invest in Venezuela, it better have chavista partner if it gets involved in some suit. And so on.

If some reader thinks that I am exaggerating, it is enough to look at some of the newly appointees. The reader could start by looking at the video clip from today session, as shown on Globovision news. Some of the candidates were sitting at a honor balcony. When the vote was officially cast they stood up cheering. One of them even brandished the fist high on, and start hitting his chest rhythmically to let make sure were his partial ideology rested. Yes, this man will be one of the new fair and impartial judges of the Republic.

The reader could also look at the names of those appointed to the Constitutional Hall, who in violation of the constitution has decided to become the main court of the TSJ, walking into other courts business as it wishes. Two names hurt the eyes when read. Carrasquero of Cosa Nostra Electoral fame, the one that allowed the electoral system in Venezuela to become a farce, the one that would have annulled all the signatures for the referendum if it had been up to him, the one that spat on the face of democracy, is now in the Constitutional Hall.

He will be in good company as another one that climbed up there is the morally deficient Velazquez Alvaray, the one that already came up with a constitutional revision proposal after the "victory" of Chavez of August 15, proposing that the constitution should be changed to allow Chavez to run as many times as he pleases.

The cruelly funny part of all of this masquerade is the mechanism of the election, to call it by a name. Normally three consults should have been done where a 2/3 majority was needed. Then if it failed a 4th round would be called and there a simple majority vote would have sufficed. Thus chavismo was assured to name whomever it pleased. But that was not enough. In the anti democratic streak that now characterizes the majority MVR managed to go through the previous three loops without revealing who were in their final short list. The final list of 17 new judges and more than 2 dozen substitutes was revealed ONLY today, thus making a final mockery of the whole process. I just let the reader ponder the nomination process of a Supreme Court Justice in the United States and compare it with the blatant manipulation experimented in Venezuela. Then again in the US justice is taken seriously.

Thus we had a president who was elected in large part to resolve the judicial mess of Venezuela. In 6 years he made it worse, replacing the infamous "judicial tribes" by a single pro Chavez camarilla whose qualifications are very questionable to say the least.

This is the offical end of the separation of powers in Venezuela, a day that shall livein infamy, to paraphrase a commemoration a few days ago.

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