TSJ to citizens: the State's too busy to be accountable

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At the center of this case is an irregular purchase of medicines from Cuba made by former Health Minister Maria Eugenia Sader, formally charged for embezzlement.

As Venezuela currently faces a major shortage of medicines (with, literally, deadly consequences), a related case of corruption involving the purchase of large amounts of medicine from Cuba moves ahead. The case was the reason behind a controversial, little known decision by the TSJ’s (Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice) Administrative Chamber last week.

A few years ago, the Health Ministry bought large amounts of medicines from Cuba. This caught the attention of the Comptroller General’s Office. In an internal report made public in 2011, they found that the Ministry got way more medicines than they required, and therefore many of those supplies simply expired without been used.

Several NGOs requested more information from the Health Ministry, without getting any answer. So they went to the TSJ three times between 2012 and 2013 to try and force the Ministry to give them some form of response.

After months and months of waiting, the highest court denied the four NGOs‘ request, but in the meantime, it also did away with Article 28 of the Constitution, the one regarding access to public information. Here’s the opinion of justice Emiro García Rosas, who wrote the decision:

In the criteria of this court, requests like this one, where the party pretends to gather information over the activities the state does or wants to do to obtain an end … go against the efficiency that must prevail in the Public Administration … given that if it’s true that every person has the right to make requests to public institutions and get a timely response, yet that right cannot be abused in a way that obstruct the normal functioning of the administrative activities … which would have to dedicate time and human resources to explain the large amount of activities that must be made in service of the collective, which it would also put an unnecessary and heavy burden on the justice system…”

Too legalese for you? I’ll put it simply: “How dare you to ask the state to tell you what it’s doing? The state is too busy working for your benefit, and you want to waste their time and efforts? Your request is worthless, and you should feel bad for even bothering us with this.”

Lack of access to public information in Venezuela has been on its deathbed for quite some time, but this decision covers its dozing head with a pillow.

In the meantime, the case that started this whole issue has not been solved. As a matter of fact, it has continued at a healthy pace. Yeah, the person who was Minister at the time has been charged, but I won’t be surprised if she’s left off the hook or just given a symbolic slap on the wrist. Who knows what internal chavista/Cuban power plays are at work here?

Speaking of the state’s efficiency, the TSJ made its ruling almost TWO YEARS after the original request.

1 COMMENT

    • Otherwise everybody would have treated him the same way as Rosales, you remember him? The guy of “si me matan y yto me muero…”? Everybody says he’s a spineless coward because he went to exile.

      • You are thinking about Rosales and I was thinking about Simonovis, Vivas and Forero.

        My image of Rosales is that of a corrupt governor that ran because he had his tail on fire.

        On the other hand, Simonovis, Vivas and Forero are, in my eyes, victims of a lawless rotten system, and I would never ever put my future in the hands of that system.

        • You know what was the “crime against humanity” he was being charged?
          Indeed, the magic wand called “corruption”, specifically for “giving away a truck to Maracaibo’s police department”, said truck was nothing but a rotting, useless carcass, crumbling in the middle of a yard.
          You should have seen the whole “interpelation” show that the chavistas assembled, lead by the thief called mario isea (Inspector Squirrel), oh, boy, what a fussilade wall.
          He wasn’t charged of anything else, just of giving away that piece of rusted shit, and maybe not even that would have been true.

  1. When I reached for my copy of the Constitution, to rip out yet another page of what is now a tattered remnant of the original, I noticed the article immediately preceding Art. 28. This one says everyone has a right to have their constitutional guarantees upheld by the courts – including those contained in international human rights treaties. Moreover, the courts will give such demands priority over ‘any other matter’ and attend to them without delay, even if there’s a state of emergency in force. Oh well, there goes another page.

  2. Just a quick note of form rather than substance. I would have preferred to send it directly to the author (Gustavo Hernandez A) but there is no contact information provided for him. Anyway he states in the above article
    ” .. A few years ago, the Health Ministry bought large amounts of medicines to Cuba. …”
    In English you do not buy something “to” someone; rather you buy it “from” someone. I think this was repeated elsewhere as well , meriting a quick correction. That is all.
    Thanks to one and all for excellent material day in and day out.

  3. In the U.S., when all public officials take office, they are sworn in with an oath that requires them to defend the Constitution. I got curious and looked up the Oath for the Supreme Court Justices and found more information than I had been looking for, but it is well worth the read…

    http://www.supremecourt.gov/about/oath/textoftheoathsofoffice2009.aspx

    The point being that the TSJ is clearly not concerned with the support and defense of the Venezuelan Constitution, other than when it becomes “convenient”. This is something we all know, since the justices of the TSJ are openly partisan and beholden to their masters in the Mira Flores. So, why do we even discuss this any longer? The Venezuelan Constitution has long been moot. What difference does it make how many articles have been abrogated? At the moment the very first article was knowingly and willingly abrogated, the entire document became equally worthless. A constitution can only work if people and institutions in government defend it. Otherwise, it is only so much waste paper.

    • Still every violation should be documented and some level outrage be raised. Otherwise people may believe that is not happening anymore. You know just like Human Rights Violations stopped mysteriously in 1998.

  4. Excellent, informative post. Judge Garcia Rojas simply tears a page from the Constitution to protect those in power. I wonder if he knows about the new “lustration” law in Ukraine, which imposes sanctions, including potential prison sentences, on judges who denied people their rights under the previous regime?

      • Not if the judges are being judged on laws in existence when they acted. It seems that they’re only being warned that future governments will get to do performance reviews.

      • Lustration, properly conceived, is protective rather than penal. It dismisses judges whose record shows an inability or unwillingness to properly apply the law. It is a dismissal “for cause”. The important part of lustration policies is that an appointed Commission does it systematically. That way, every judge’s record gets a vetting based on their rulings.

        Lustration with penal consequences goes back to the Nuremburg Trial of the Judges after the Second World War. But where the existing law is clear, and its violation is also clear, penal law has a role to play.

        • In the old spanish colonial system , every official on leaving office was subjected to a ‘juicio de residencia’ , a kind of trial which looked on whether it had discharged his duties as required . this was probably one of King Carlos III innovations for improving spanish royal governance.

          The ancient greeks also has a rule of reviewing the results of legislation passed, after it had been in force for some time . and if the legislation was found to have hurt the ‘Polis’ interests then action could be brought against to those which had proposed its adoption involving the possibility of being condemned to forced exile or the payment of fines.

          These measures were meant to reinforce the accountability of officials and lawmakers and to instill them a sense of responsability in the discharge of their obligations .!!

  5. I doubt if Judge García Rosas is to be taken seriously. I would rather think it is nothing but a poke in the eye to demonstrate the power of the revolution.

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