Analysts: opposition is left without “democratic weapons”

Between March and April, the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) rendered seven judgments restricting a number of rights. “The TSJ thinks that the Constitution concedes rights, but that is not true. The Constitution acknowledges those rights for them to be exercised,” said Jesús Ramón Quintero

The right to peaceful protest was restricted via a sentence that ignites concerns among the international political and juridical community (Vicente Correale)

The right to peaceful protest was restricted via a sentence that ignites concerns among the international political and juridical community (Vicente Correale)

Saturday May 17, 2014  12:00 AM
The most recent judgments rendered by the Constitutional Court of the Supreme Tribunal of Justice (TSJ) have granted or restricted fundamental rights. This has revived the perception that the government, through the Judicial Power, is accelerating the consolidation of the revolutionary process, thus getting the opposition and its democratic struggles out of the way.

Between March and April alone, the Constitutional Court rendered seven rulings that twist the rights enshrined in the Magna Carta, and confiscate the “weapons” of the opposition: The confirmation of Deputy María Corina Machado’s expulsion from the National Assembly, and the termination of her prerogatives even though she was a deputy elected by popular vote; the precautionary measures privileging free transit over the right to protest; the dismissal and arrest warrants against the recently elected mayors of San Cristóbal (southwest) and San Diego (north center) on the grounds of “contempt”; and restrictions on the freedom of assembly and the right to protest.

“Venezuela is no longer a constitutional State,” said the Venezuelan National Academy of Political and Social Sciences in a press release on April 10. The Academy alerted the international community about “summary trials and judgments.” The press release stated that these rulings were not only favorable for the Venezuelan President’s political project, but also, in order to attain such a goal, “they usurp the power of criminal courts or fabricate procedures […]” “We can expect any action that accelerates the elimination of the political opponent.”

According to scholar Jesús Ramón Quintero, with these actions, the constitutional supremacy is disregarded, which entails a very serious fundamental error. “The TSJ thinks that the Constitution concedes rights, but that is not true. It acknowledges those rights. The fundamental or human rights are not specified by the Constitution, but the law acknowledges those rights for them to be exercised. This acknowledgement is a cultural matter; and it does not depend on judicial matters,” explained the lawyer, who also warned the judiciary is in danger of being left at the service of the revolution.

“Although the Constitutional Court resolves many conflicts, it could become the People’s Court. Adolf Hitler was a law-abiding man; he took good care of having laws. The problem was that he wrote the law (…) and in the People’s Court the political enemies of the Reich were forbidden to wear belts, so their pants fell down when they stood up to plead their case. The judge mocked (…) In that way, the Judiciary degrades, and it ends up becoming a notary that stamps the seal of approval on everything the Executive Office requires.”

From 1999 to the “shackles” on liberty

According to some jurists, it is no accident that in the constitutional amendment approved in 1999 by the Constituent Assembly, the Constitutional Court was entrusted with a special power that is only worthy of a Constitutional Court. The State was given the power of developing the personality of Venezuelans with “Bolivarian” values, according to Article 3.

“From that moment on, we Venezuelans are constitutionally forbidden to think for ourselves and have different and plural ways of thinking. The Constitution does not allow us to pray to Francisco de Miranda or Andrés Bello. As simple as that,” says jurist Asdrúbal Aguiar, a former judge of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR). For Aguiar, the recent performance of the Constitutional Court is nothing new.

“When this Court was opened, Justice Jesús Cabrera stated in one of his first judgments that he and his colleagues were not demanded to follow the Constitution in order to exercise their positions, which were only temporary. It was then evident that the Court would rise up in order to change the constitutional text when necessary. The goal was to allow the “process” get to the current point.”

Ruling No. 1,083 dealing with press and journalism, several other sentences putting shackles on freedom of speech, the speech by Justice Fernando Vegas Torrealba in 2011, when he affirmed that “this TSJ and the rest of the tribunals must enforce the law in order to punish behaviors or causes that go to the detriment of the Bolivarian Socialism.” According to Aguiar, these are emblematic examples of the “subjugation” of the judicial independence, and this subjugation is used for taking space from dissenters, Cuban style.

“The administration of justice cannot play a part to the benefit of a single citizen and his liberties. But when people understand their rights and appreciate them as such, they exercise and defend them at all costs. However, that requires human reason above animal instincts, because if the latter prevail, only a crust from the hands of he who owns our life and destiny would be enough for us to be satisfied.”

Translated by Joel Ariza

The original article can be found at

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