A white rose by any other name

Katy says: – Venezuela’s “Moral Power” asked today for two Supreme Court Justices to be impeached and fired from the Court. The move comes as a surprise since the Court has long been a chavista stronghold, but it serves to remind us of the extremes to which chavismo is willing to go in order to quash dissent.

The first case involves Justice Carlos Oberto, the husband of chavista congresswoman (and Native Venezuelan representative) Noelí Pocaterra. Justice Oberto apparently intervened in the long-standing inheritance feud between two branches of the powerful Capriles family (publishers of the popular pro-chavista tabloid Ultimas Noticias), and this did not please chavismo’s upper-echelons. One can only assume that this is retribution.

The other case involves the ridiculously named Justice Blanca Rosa Mármol de León – literally, White Rose Lion’s Marble. Justice Mármol was one of the few remaining voices of dissent in the Chavista Supreme Court, a role she seemed to reluctantly play but which nevertheless earned her a marginal spot on the Court. The alleged fault has to do with something she did four years ago – when, in a sham trial against opposition NGO Súmate, Justice Mármol decided to reserve the case to herself and her part of the Court.

Lest you think this move by Justice Mármol had any effect on the trial, her decision was quickly overturned by the Constitutional Hall of the Supreme Court, and the red wheels of “justice” continued their march unencumbered. So it is somewhat curious that a marginal opposition voice in a very loyal Court is now being impeached for something she did four years ago, a move she was entitled to make and that had little to no legal effect.

Probably Justice Mármol’s recent branding of the new Intelligence Law as “unconstitutional”, “horrendous” and “repressive” had something to do with this latest move. Probably the fact that the current Prosecutor General, and a member of the “Moral Power”, Luisa Ortega, was also the prosecutor in the Súmate case, which must mean she carries a grudge against Justice Mármol. Which of these factors came into play is anyone’s guess.

My first instinct is to feel sympathy for Justice Mármol. And yet … what was she doing in the Supreme Court anyway? Everyone knows that place lost any semblance of being a functional institution a long time ago. Still, I guess it was a good thing she remained in the Court for a while and was able to shed light on some of the travesties of justice it was responsible for.

Justice Mármol seems like a nice, respectable lady, but she seemed curiously out of place in that wolves’ den that is the Supreme Court. With mobsters as colleagues, she must have anticipated she would end up sleeping with the fishes. The last shred of dissent in the court is now gone, and while this has no real effect, its symbolic meaning is not lost.