Venezuela is no place for “I-told-you-so’s.” Nope. In this land, your crazy cat-lady aunt from El Cafetal is as lucid a political forecaster as you’re gonna get. She’s usually right, because it doesn’t take Luis Vicente León-worthy fortune telling skills to figure out what people are up to: Chavismo has always been quite obvious and vocal about their intentions.

This is why nobody who says they saw what was going to happen after the legislative elections can claim any sort of superior forecasting power.

We all knew, for example, that the government would use the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal, our beloved TSJ, to shackle the opposition-led National Assembly (la AN). It doesn’t take a genius to see that Maduro’s pet court was out to do one thing from the get go: take everyone down with them.

We’ve discussed this extensively on the blog. We were not the first to say it, but we wanted to chronicle what, to some, were Cafetal cat-lady aunt theories in a way that our friends abroad could easily digest.

Take last week’s sham. Through a ruling, the TSJ basically tried to abolish the AN via its Rules of Debate, rules chavismo had disfigured to hyperempower their simple majority after they lost their unanimous hold on the AN in 2010.

To add insult to injury, the instrument they picked was a five-year old injunction introduced by opposition deputies to prevent the chavista majority from stripping the (then) minority of their powers.  

In brief: they subverted the legislative process by tying the passing of laws to some sort of popular consultation process (what chavistas call “streetside parliamentarianism”) which they came up with by mixing peyote with cocuy. It’s simply impossible to interpret that the Constitution mandates any such thing.

Aside from this, they made the legislative process much more cumbersome. Now, the agenda for debates can’t be modified, and the summons need to be made 48 hours in advance. They eliminated time limits for Assembly Members’ interventions so that now everyone can be a little Chávez. And, the cherry on top: they invented a new requirement that any bill brought to the Assembly floor must be subjected to the Executive Branch first for “approval of its economic viability.”

Since before the new AN deputies took their oath, we were expecting a clash with the TSJ. Everybody knows the role the TSJ plays in the politics of post-chavismo. What people may need reminding of is the role it played before we got to this point. Which brings us to the question: How deeply rooted is the influence of the TSJ in the all around crisis that Venezuela undergoes today?

Deeper than you’d think. They enabled 21st century socialism (or whatever it’s called today) and have protected it since conception.

We constantly go back to Antonio Canova’s (et al) work on the 45,474 decisions TSJ made in 2005-2014, never once ruling against the government. 

But sometimes we miss what’s really behind these monstrous statistics. What they’ve done goes beyond the specifics of the cases they’re ruling on.

The TSJ has created a culture of impunity that has permeated the entire justice system they preside over and, in consequence, the public administration as a whole. They’ve programmed helplessness into the brains of Venezuelans. That’s why no one files civil lawsuits these days. That’s why crimes are not reported, and why you could get cheap dollars to import imaginary moringa containers and get away with it.    

In my view, the TSJ is 70% —give or take—  accountable for the decay of the rule of law in our country.

And in the end, the country has become a safe haven for crime. Even Luisa Ortega Díaz, Attorney General since the Chávez days, agrees. In her “memoria y cuenta” before the AN, she kind of let slip that the courts were mostly accountable for letting criminals back in the streets.

The TSJ enabled chavismo. It protected its culprits by weaving a system that could be relied on never to hold them to account. 

But our highest court’s role today is somewhat different. It’s not about ensuring the survival of chavismo anymore. It’s about making sure when chavismo does go down – as it plainly will – it brings down the whole of the nation with it.

Plays like using an injunction Maria Corina Machado signed in 2011 to neuter the AN give the game away. These people aren’t content to just flout the basics of juridical reasoning, they’re determined to let nobody miss the message: we’re not just here to make sure you can’t take power, we’re determined to humiliate you in the process.

Decisions such as their ludicrous rewriting of the Rules of Debate take aim at the MUD’s most important source political capital: the faith of the people who just elected them. Getting them all into a funk where they’re none of it was worth it seems to be the whole point. TSJ is chavismo’s premier mechanism for demobilizing us. 

This is why it was so important that the AN go beyond Ramos Allup’s political showmanship or his attempts to play inside baseball with the Vice-President and defies the bizarre mockery of justice the TSJ now embodies.

Sadly, it hasn’t.

Things are getting really bad really fast. The country is going to need solid leadership to turn to once the inevitable collapse of this failed regime is consummated. TSJ’s role is now less to prevent a collapse – which is no longer possible – but to prevent the opposition from leading the country out of collapse in something like an orderly fashion. 

Is it working? Judging by the latest Venebarómetro poll, the answer is yes. Approval ratings for the National Assembly have dropped since February, from 64% to about 50% currently. Meanwhile, the National Assembly’s negatives have climbed from 28% to 44% in two months.

The good thing, for now, is that the AN doesn’t seem to be abiding by the TSJ’s ruling. It’s  taking bolder stances, like dismissing Rodolfo Marco Torres, former Finance Minister and current Minister of Food. TSJ’s decision nullifying yet one more of the functions the constitution explicitly reserves to the Assembly shouldn’t take long now.

Chavismo has no prospects of recovery. In effect, chavismo has ended. Whatever rotting corpse of a movement remains, its final goal is to turn its self-destruction into a murder-suicide, clinging to its political adversaries hoping to drag them down into the same dark pit they’ve taken up permanent residence in.

The question here is whether chavismo will be able to turn the anti-politics that brought them into power into a permanent feature of our public sphere. 

What will the waters bring if they succeed? Who will be around to take the helm?

I don’t know. Might as well go ask my crazy cat-lady aunt in El Cafetal.

30 COMMENTS

  1. ” In my view, the TSJ is 70% —give or take— accountable for the decay of the rule of law in our country.”

    Entonces por qué la AN no va por la yugular? La culebra se mata por la cabeza!


    Chavismo has no prospects of recovery. In effect, chavismo has ended. Whatever rotting corpse of a movement remains, its final goal is to turn its self-destruction into a murder-suicide, clinging to its political adversaries hoping to drag them down into the same dark pit they’ve taken up permanent residence in.”

    Y si llevan a Vzla al mismo camino que los rusos llevaron a Afganistan? Destruyendo las instituciones, su clase media?
    Resultado : warlords en control del país, fundamentalistas talibanes y narcotrafico.

    Dime sinceramente si esto no se parece más a lo que quiere llevarnos el regimen.

  2. “Chavismo has no prospects of recovery. In effect, chavismo has ended”

    Chavismo is alive, healthy and well. Losing AN didn’t even make a dent on them. They’re running circles on MUD’s leadership.

    Sigan votando.

  3. “In effect, chavismo has ended. Whatever rotting corpse of a movement remains, its final goal is to turn its self-destruction into a murder-suicide, clinging to its political adversaries hoping to drag them down into the same dark pit they’ve taken up permanent residence in…”

    Raul, I concur and am glad to see this written here.

    The end game has been for a while now, to finish the looting fro all that is left (BCV gold p.e.) and then create the conditions for bog time mayhem.

    Heck! who cares they are only covering their tracks and leaving behind such a mess, that after the blood dries and the cascos azules leave, no one will stand strong enough to set out to go and chase them from under the stones.

    Also, surviving Chavistas turn cloaks, wealthy in hard currency, will reinvent them selves as entrepreneurs and rescuers of the tierra arrasada (an old adecopeyano script btw, saving some differences, Diego Arria anyone?)

  4. “In my view, the TSJ is 70% —give or take— accountable for the decay of the rule of law in our country.”
    Wow isn’t that too generous?
    IMO The real power sustaining Chavismo lies with the Military and the money to buy it all.
    After the failed coup attempt in 2002, there was not going back, Chavez could have crowned himself King of Venezuela, change the flag with his name on it and get away with it despite some people protest and after firing most of the TSJ judges who dare to oppose him.
    They have been justifying anything and everything on behalf of the “Revolution”.
    The “Democratic” facade has been just a temporary phase to keep a sense of legitimacy.

  5. The biggest threat to Chavismo is not the AN but what is happening in the ordinary lives of all Venezuelans day to day , a steady worsening of life conditions such as no sane person can stand and as cannot be hidden whatever out landish propaganda is used to distract peoples attention from it . There is always a fringe of the fanatically self deluded but for the mass of the people whether they come out and say it to pollster or not what exists is a feeling of rising discontent and anger against the govts for the harships which its corrupt mismanagement of the economy is imposing on the country. And make no bones about it the financial situation is turning worse and worse and sometime soon is going to explode . Default looms ……..Commercial debt to suppliers (excluding things like what is owed airlines and such ) has risen to 8 to 9 billion US$. Oil prices are not going any where.

    The Chinese have clearly said NO to the regimes entreaties to condone or postpone payments due this year , there is no cash in the till , not even to pay essential Pdvsa contractors like Halliburton and Schlumberger which by cutting the scale of their operations in Venezuela will hit oil production hard and soon …….lets not talk about the expiring Bond And Bank loan payments due in October and November……..!!

    Can any govt run on the hot air from its hyperventilating propaganda machines and the printing of increasingly worthless money notes. Clearly not unless it maintains itself primarily thru the use of such coercion violence and intimidation as it still commands…….and even then there is a limit to how long you can defend your self from a countrys unstoppable rage and despair……..

    All the AN has to do is to keep itself visible and engage in acts which starkly show its resolution to challenge the govts abuses and wait …….the best opportunities to effect the fall of the regime are still ahead , TIME is not in the regimes side …and they know it .

  6. My wife said today… “here it comes”.
    She fears for her relatives, who have seen everything lost when their company which was lost when Chavez nationalized their concrete/cement business many years ago.
    Now they don’t fear for their livelihood, but their lives.
    It is about to turn very ugly.
    The youth are angry.
    And the oldsters are angry.
    That is TROUBLE.

    I pray for my extended Venezuelan family.

  7. Fucking crazy cat cafetal aunts. I prefer fat arrogant uncles from la florida. At least “we have to hit rock bottom” leaves more room for action than “just sit tight and wait for fidel’s troops.”

    And I do think you miss the point, awesome as this piece is. It’s not the TSJ that carries the bulk of the responsibility, it’s the ’99 constiuent assembly and everybody that voted for it.

    The sour genious of it is that it is our only play to win without some serious authoritarianism.

  8. The An is against an immense enemy. I hope the people continue to support them and realize they can’t do much until the Regimen falls…And fall it will…. The AN needs to keep passing laws that the TSJ will strike down so that the Nation sees that it is doing everything it can, and it is the Regimen that is forcing the country further in crisis and misery……I also hope that there is no “forgiveness’ or whatever you want to call it in the name of reconciliation after the Regimen falls. The leaders of the TSJ, CNE, and Ejecutivo Nacional should be tried and if found guilty thrown in jail for crimes against the Nation and People. They have brought death both directly and indirectly to many, many VZLAns by means of ESCASEZ…The lack of medicines, electricity, water, food, and security are all killing people.

  9. Raul, thanks for your insights. I’m afraid, however, that for a significant segment of the population, Chavismo is not dead, although Madurismo probably is. Chavismo, popularly, will probably continue to live on to an important degree after the collapse, and will continue to make life difficult to impossible in Venezuela, as Peronismo has in Argentina, barring a needed cleansing a la Pinochet, which is really what saved Chile….

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