Say our families have a longstanding feud. After generations of strife, we find a mediator and get to work on resolving our long-held differences. Except when you get to the negotiating table, you realize my stance is…a little funny. I insist, positively demand, that after every clause our agreement include an asterisk:
*FT retains the right to unilaterally break this agreement at any time in the future for any reason with no previous consultation, entirely at his discretion.
I doubt you’d be minded to agree to anything with me in those terms.
By tacitly accepting the legitimacy of the government’s Kangaroo Supreme Court MUD is, in effect, capitulating.
It’d be insane.
Because what I’m proposing there isn’t really an “agreement” at all, it’s a capitulation.
A deep asymmetry in the stickiness of our commitments makes a mockery of its “agreement-ness”: we’re both making commitments, but your commitments bind you while I get to renege at will.
You’d have to be insane to “agree” to anything in those terms, right?
Well, MUD is insane then, because that’s very much the shape of the deal it has just accepted.
By tacitly accepting the legitimacy of the government’s Kangaroo Supreme Court, MUD is agreeing to an agreement that binds it, but doesn’t bind the government. Not really.
Because we’ve seen how chavismo uses the TSJ: to call the court “partial” is to give it far more credit than it deserves. Chavismo has used TSJ repeatedly to declare that the constitution says the exact opposite of what it says. The Court rules without hearing arguments from both sides, without holding hearings, without even going through the motions of tribunal-ness. The problem with the TSJ isn’t that it’s a flawed court, it’s that it’s not a court at all.
The TSJ is just Miraflores in a different building. That’s all.
MUD leaders keep telling us that they don’t believe in anything the government says. But they’ve just agreed to something the government can costlessly renege on.
A reminder of how this all works came as early as yesterday, when Maduro once again renewed the Economic Emergency Decree without the parliamentary approval the constitution explicitly says is required. Why? Because faced with a reluctant Assembly, Maduro just invoked his asterisk and had the TSJ grant itself a power the constitution explicitly reserves to the Assembly. This all just happened for a fifth time yesterday, literally the day after the interim agreement was announced by Monseignor Celli.
By leaving the Tribunal out of the agenda, MUD is agreeing to a catastrophic asymmetry in negotiations: its commitments are binding, but Maduro can just pick up a phone, call Gladys Gutiérrez, and claw back any of his commitments unilaterally, at any time.
Short of his resignation, no commitment Nicolás Maduro can make while the weaponized-TSJ remains in place can be minimally credible.
MUD leaders keep telling us that they don’t believe in anything the government says. But they’ve just agreed to something the government can costlessly renege on. They can deny it until they turn blue in the face, but their position today is premised entirely on chavismo’s good faith.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.