Game Changer

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As you see the opposing team running, ball-in-hand, towards your goal, you could be forgiven for concluding that somehow, in the last few minutes, the game you were playing had changed. You may still be wearing soccer uniforms, there may still be 11 of you on a field against 11 on the other side, but irreducible aspects of what it means to play fútbol no longer apply. You are, at best, playing a twisted facsimile of soccer – a bizarroworld iteration that you neither trained for, prepared for, nor can be expected to be competitive at, because the new rules being enforced are intrinsically unfair.

That, I think, is pretty much the situation Venezuela’s opposition finds itself in as the government moves to charge Guillermo Zuloaga’s lawyer for obstructing justice in trying to defend her client.

The lawyer, Perla Jaimes, apparently did nothing more than insistently and vociferously demand to review the court order allowing prosecutor’s to raid Zuloaga’s home.

http://www.youtube.com/v/Upf-PTUrTiE&hl=en_US&fs=1

 

In criminalizing the act of demanding that the authorities follow due process guarantees, the government sends an unmistakable shot across the bow of every lawyer in Venezuela: represent our political enemies at your own risk. 

While a kind-hearted simpleton could assimilate the relentless persecution of Guillermo Zuloaga and other opposition figures to a referee’s bad call – unfortunate, but the kind of mistake we all recognize as "part of the game" – nobody with a sense of natural justice can countenance the criminalization of a defense attorney’s work on behalf of her clients as in any way part of the normal operations of a real justice system. 

With moves like this one – alongside the paradigmatic Afiuni Case – chavismo signals once again, decisively, that the judicial game has changed.

It may still happen inside something that looks like a courtroom, it may still be played by people who went to law school…but more and more, what happens in the Venezuelan justice system is just as warped a facsimile of the real thing as our rugby-style soccer-game above. 

***apologies to any Irish readers out there for this whole post…

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