Should we go for the jugular?

In his latest Sobremesa, Juan asks whether we should be focusing on solutions instead of problems when it comes to effective regime change in 2016, namely, getting rid of the current TSJ.


There is an old saying in Venezuela: “you can’t kill a donkey by pinching it to death.”

I was thinking about this the other day while reading Henrique Capriles’ interesting interview with El Estímulo. Capriles makes a compelling case for the Recall Referendum, saying that this was his preferred option because any constitutional amendment shortening Maduro’s terms will be shot down by the Supreme Tribunal.

“The amendment will be stopped by the court, Maduro is not going to resign, and a Constitutional Assembly is a much larger and trickier process.”

The obvious question here is: if the court will strike anything down, why won’t it shoot down the Recall Referendum? Following this logic, isn’t the TSJ the main problem? Why not deal with them first?

I thought about this again today, when reading about the Amnesty Law approved on Tuesday by the National Assembly. Of course, the legislature was right to pass amnesty for political prisoners. Of course, chavista goons in the courts will shoot it down.

What will we do then?

It is no exaggeration to say the Supreme Tribunal is the main safeguard of Maduro’s power. The court’s last few sentences – including one saying that Maduro’s economic decree, twice rejected by the National Assembly, is legal and valid – are a clear indication that the court will rule to protect Maduro at all costs, even by taking over legislative powers from a legitimate National Assembly.

Does this mean the TSJ must be changed before anything else changes in Venezuela?

This is a question of the utmost importance. If ridding the country of the TSJ is a sine-qua-non condition for changing the government, then how exactly can we go about doing this without it being a coup? How can you change the TSJ without dirtying your paws with the same policy choices we have been criticizing for years?

Perhaps we don’t need to sell our souls in order to gain power, as Raúl put it recently. Perhaps once Maduro is removed via constitutional means, the TSJ will line up and begin ruling like a normal court would rule.

The TSJ is the main column holding up the dangling rancho that is the Maduro government. Many believe that you need to take them out, and the proverbial house of cards will collapse.

And yet nobody in the opposition is proposing a plausible way to deal with this problem, nor is it clear that they should.

To be honest, I don’t know how to solve this situation. What I do know is that the latest IVAD poll says that Venezuelans reject the Supreme Tribunal 63-33. If the decision is made to deal with the TSJ, it would need to be supported by the main weapon the opposition has – the will of a majority of the people.

Bring this discussion to your sobremesa, and let me know what people say.

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  1. A good chunk of the whole reason for being of courts is that they do not bow to the will of the majority. And they cannot be removed by a majority. Weak courts, corrupt courts, inexperienced or inept courts, however, take their lead from where the power lies. The TSJ is the ultimate example of that kind of court. So much so that it hardly fits the description of a court at all.

    Venezuelans have to change where the power lies to change how the court decides. I think that in the short run is a more important goal than the problem of who is on the court.

    This is not a strong court that is doing all of these outrageous things. It is a profoundly weak court. It is a collection of spineless judges, promoted for their spinelessness and for their lack of respect for themselves as professionals and for the rule of law. If the people express sufficient will to get rid of Maduro, by what according to any reasonable measure are constitutional means, the court will not stand in the way, I don’t think. A strong court could be a vexing problem. This is not a strong court.

  2. The court’s last few sentences… are a clear indication that the court will rule to protect Maduro at all costs…

    I think this is a dangerous misreading of the situation. What the last few sentences are a clear indication of is that unless you cut a deal with them the court will rule to protect Maduro at all costs. That they’re showing as clearly as can be.

    You can’t just go around them. You can’t compel them to do something they haven’t agreed to previously. But jumping from that to thinking no deal is possible would be a blunder.

    • Or perhaps a rephrase covers it:

      The court’s last few sentences… are a clear indication that the court will rule to protect its own vested interests at all costs…

    • Dear Mr.Toro

      We, the members of the TSJ, have read with amusement your suggestion that the opposition should cut a deal with us. Thank you for making us laugh. We feel compelled, however, to answer to your suggestion in a serious maner and clarify to you that for a deal to take place, each side has to offer something to the other, and the opposition has absolutely nothing to offer to us. You see, we have all the power, you have none. Power means being able to enforce your will upon others. We can do so because we are the ones who can send people to jail out of a whim. If we want you to cut your bear, we declare it to be inconstitutional for you to wear it, and if you don´t cut it, we declare you in contempt and send you to Tocoron. The National assembly can´t do anything of the sort. We own the asses of those stupid opposition congressmen you elected in December, and we do with those asses whatever we please. So, please, stop dreaming and accept the fact that we can fuck you up all we want, whenever we want to.

      The bullies of the TSJ

  3. Are these decisions making Maduro or the court more or less popular ….??, can case be made before an internationla forum that all these decisions clearly point towards a TSJ that is part of a system that is contrary to democratic principles , no court can be judged impartial in the administration of justice if ALL its decisions can be read as methodically sabotaging the oppo mayority in the Asamblea !! Is somebody keeping tabs , building a dossier for a time when this matter may be aired before an international forum.!!

    • And the internacional forum will do what? Wring its hands? These are the same international buddies who cheer and attaboy Obama when he goes to Cuba and gives everything to Raúl Castro, who is worse than Maduro.

  4. Those 2/3 dont just feel unhappy with the TSJ and its decisions , they hate their guts, thats what worries me that people even if warm to the memory of chavez and not altogether identified with may core oppo views who voted for the oppo or abstained from voting…..heartily hate Maduros guts so any effort on the part of the oppo to reach agreements with the regime will arouse a great deal of anger against the oppo leaders going for that . The reason why Ramos Allup has suddenly become so popular is that he gives it to them straight in the kisser, and thats highly sattisfying to many of those who voted directly or indirectly for the oppo parlaimentarians ……in contrast the proto appeasers like HCR arent becoming as popular as one might expect.

    Francisco may be right in that there may be people inside the regimes govt circle who would perhaps go for some kind of accomodation , but its not all of them nor do they necessarily hold the most influence inside the circle of power so even if its convenient to them there are many barriers to any such initiative.

  5. I hate saying this, but outside the bubble, I doubt a big part of the population knows what the TSJ is, how it works, it’s obligations, it’s limits, what is wrong with it, and how it affects the current political situation (And, to be fair, not just in Venezuela).

    And that makes it too easy for the side in total control of the media to make any move on it sound like a kind of coup and generate rejection.

    I’m not saying they shouldn’t try, It just doesn’t sound like getting popular support for what is a rather dark political technical maneuver is something we can count on.

  6. You dont win a war by attacking the strongest point.

    You need to bring about a situation that gives the TSJ reason to negotiate. And then be willing to give them safe passage.

    The worst mistake in a confrontation is leaving the enemy no way out, even when the enemy is far weaker.

    The referendum seems like a viable piece of the puzzle. The other obvious one is getting some disenfranchized chavistas to support the referendum, as chavistas. Independents will be lukewarm about it, but if they vote, they will vote for referendum.

    The key is letting the chavistas do it as chavistas. Then the TSJ wont look like fools.

  7. Not by gettong rid of it, but by making it neutral again. Use the same law Chaviistas used to expand it, same wording, and triple the number of judges. Don’t stack it with supporters, but with people who will protect the institution of the legislative.

    If the court strikes it down, it declares itself in violation of the constitution, which is a tad Bad for them.

    It’s not ideal, but it may be the vest way forward. I find no evidence they’d be willing to strike a deal.

  8. Do you really think the supreme court will start performing as they should without Maduro? No. They current actions are a corruption of the court. They need to be fired / jailed.

    • This………My thoughts exactly…Talk of removing them, sanctioning them is simply not enough…Talk of jailing them is an attention getter. They are responsible for Constitutional Violations and usurpation of powers. This is intolerable in any functioning Democracy. The outrage at the TSJ is not enough. Their damage to the country really needs to be highlighted and brought to the home of every Venezuelan.

  9. Good thinking Juan.

    The problem with most current judges in the TSJ is not only that they are chavistas. They are also incompetent and unfit for their role. Had not been for the chavista assembly that we have had for
    almost 16 years, those being nominated as judges would have never even been considered for any court, let alone the highest court.

    I think it is easy to show that many of them were unqualified to start with , I am talking even in terms of the minimum constitutional requirements, for instance that of the single nationality by birth.

    So, the Assembly does have the power to look into this.

  10. Interesting thoughts.

    I also was thinking about these points:

    1) the 33% of Chavistas who appear time after time: I wonder if they would still be chavistas if Maduro/Cabello/Istúriz was kicking their kids and wives…probably they still would, even if they would hate Maduro/Cabello/Istúriz etc
    2) Definitely few people are thinking about the Supreme Court. Man, they are thinking about the hours they spend every day looking fo rice, meat, eggs, soap, flour.
    3) what is the normal life of these judges? What do they think through their week? How much do they earn and what are the alternatives? And where are their closest relatives making a living? What would happen
    if they would suddenly become ethical?

  11. I don’t think that there ever was or is any chance of forcing this government from power via the AN. However, it had to be tried to show that the Opposition tried every possible angle before resorting to more drastic measures. In any case, at this point, I am expecting that the Chavista regime will end the same as the Soviet Union did, “not with a bang, but with a whimper.” When the very last of the treasury is emptied and Chavismo can no longer pay its supporters, most of the officials will abandon their posts, and no one will pay any attention to the ones that remain. Game over.

    • What about Cuba? Even if the Cuban dictatorship is now all trying to attract US money, it is still a dictatorship.
      Of course, that might change in the coming years but that is a bit more than a whimper.

      • Cuba has also another escape valve for any troubling opposition figure. Just land them in the US and receive automatic refugee status and start your american dream, if you so please. A pretty sweet deal if you see the volume of visa requests to the US.

        All Castrismo has to do is keep enough heat on the society to distill any rabble-rouser into Miami. Otherwise, Castro will send you to some Gulag, so unless you have some mystic calling to be a martyr, you pack and go, quietly.

  12. The problem is: How does a powerless body exert power they do not have, or are not allowed to wield? As Roy suggested, it may be that the Chavistas will fall only when they become powerless, ie, no money. History has shown that socialism can only work when someone or something else (oil) pays for it. In the meantime, the country flails along in total stasis, largely ignored by the world press because nothing whatsoever is happening but rhetoric and no action, no real breaking news, sin nada. We’re all just waiting for the fall…

  13. The Asamblea can do things which even if their intended effect is sabotaged by the regime controlled TSJ work to discredit the regime and raise the amount of distrust and anger agaisnt the regime both internally and externally. This should be done methodically and consistently . Every time the regime abuses its control of the TSJ their flagrantly biased conduct should be used to further delegitimize the regime in the eyes of the world .There is also the possibility of including well crafted provisions in the newly ennacted or ammended laws which by themselves dont arouse a TSJ rejection but which open a chink thru which the regime can be attacked in the future. !!

  14. ISTM that the oppo has nothing positive to offer the chavistas of the TSJ. They are nothing but tools of the chavernment, and if the chavernment falls they will fall too. As noted above, they are incompetent and unqualified, and so any new regime must get rid of them regardless of ideology. There’s no choice there.

    The only way to put pressure on them is to make it clear that if they persist in fraudulently upholding the chavernment, then when it falls, they will be charged with treason and sent to prison. (If not executed out of hand by outraged mobs.)

    But… if they abandon the chavernment, uphold the actions of the AN, and enable transfer of power, they will be allowed to retire with no further consequences – even keep whatever loot they have accumulated.

  15. Only the comment above by TV hit the nail on the head: Increase the number of judges and obtain a majority in the “Supreme” Cout. The rest of the comments are pura paja.


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