It’s all about the courts

A few days ago, our very own Raúl Stolk stirred the pot over in the Daily Beast. In his terrific piece, he makes a point that escapes a lot of foreign watchers of Venezuela’s cataclysm: the regime is being increasingly held up by the courts, and the outcome depends in large part on what the court decides to do (or not do).

Raúl lays the history of chavista interventions in the judiciary: from the first signs of institutional suicide to the Chávez juggernaut to the final nail on the coffin with the naming of the last few justices. After visiting Caracas, Raúl related the sense of dread and despair on the streets, the palpable hunger for an outcome to the crisis, with what the courts decide to do.

In a Stolk-ian piece of flourish, he focuses on maracucho Calixto Ortega, chavista fixer par excellence, whom he names the Tom Hagen of the revolution. The sirloin:

“Ortega’s militancy with the government party goes back to the beginning of the Chávez years. In those days, Ortega held a spot in the National Assembly for the government party. It was said of him that he was one of two government party deputies —the other one being Nicolás Maduro— who had the good sense to tend bridges with their opponents. He was easy to talk to and negotiate with, while stirring his scotch and soda with his little finger. His diplomatic manner may have been the reason the Venezuelan government appointed him chargé d’affaires in the United States in 2013. They needed someone who wasn’t allergic to capitalism, and who could serve as liaison with the US when things got tough: someone loyal who could do some damage control when it was required. And he did.”

The stories about the triple-chinned Ortega’s tastes for the high life are the stuff of legend. That the fate of our country relies on the whims of a shady character who, among other things, was in charge of helping narco-general Hugo Carvajal escape his Aruban prison … is a sign of the depth of our tragedy.

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