On Haringhtongate and the Dignity of a Fake Court

Each time the Supreme Tribunal hands down a crazy decision, people expect me – as a lawyer – to comment on it. I won’t. Not any more.

It’s a moment I dread. The Venezuelan Supreme Tribunal (TSJ) puts out some hideous aberration of a decision. I’m a lawyer. It’s a given people are going to ask me about it.

Oy vey.

So there I sit, and try to somehow rationalize the incoherent mess of an argumentation the justices put out, often plainly contradicting the text of the Venezuelan constitution and laws. It’s never quite clear what’s expected of me. I usually mutter a half-hearted “yes, this is serious” or casually drop a criollo ¡qué bolas!

Take Haringhtongate, the latest episode. Paving the way for the ouster of rogue erstwhile chavista Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Díaz, the TSJ had annulled her appointment of Rafael González Arias as Deputy Prosecutor General (aka the person who would become Prosecutor General if she’s ousted). It then appointed Katherine Haringhton, a presumed Maduro loyalist, as Deputy Prosecutor General instead. Plainly, the Supreme Tribunal has nothing like the authority to appoint… but see, I was about to do it again.

It doesn’t matter when you read this. As long as chavismo is in power, it will remain accurate.

Haringhton’s appointment itself was a scandal, but it’s what happened after that brought me my moment of clarity. Flustered by Ortega Díaz to let her access the Prosecutor General’s offices, Haringhton a person who presumably grasps she’s on the cusp of becoming the head of a major Venezuelan state entity decided the logical thing to do would be to sneak into the office stowed away in the trunk of a car, like the #TropicalMierda version of a Tarantino movie.

I’d kept up the mad charade until now, but the sheer ludicrousness of the Harrington episode is the moment this whole thing jumped the shark for me. Devoting my legal training to parsing the monstrosities of TSJ is a kind of insult to the scholars who taught me the law. Instead, what we need are some general interpretative guidelines a permaguide to TSJ insanity.

It doesn’t matter when you read this. As long as chavismo is in power, it will remain accurate.

Practical Guide to Interpreting

the next Mad TSJ Decision

  • Does the decision plainly misinterpret o disregard  the constitution on purpose to favor chavismo?

Yes, all decisions are taken with complete disregard of what the constitution actually reads, and there is no shame in expressly contradicting it by using plainly idiotic arguments or quoting Nazis.

  • Are there any coherent and respected legal theories out there that might make sense of this decision?


  • Are they gonna be interpreted arbitrarily and violently enforced?

Yes, they will, even if that entails hiding a middle-aged woman in the trunk of a car.

  • Will there be an international backlash to it?

Not really, Venezuela left legal Kansas many years ago. The international community is well aware of the autocratic nature of chavismo. Look: Venezuela stopped been a liberal democracy many years ago. The international community knows it, its refusal to do something meaningful about it is down to pragmatic cynicism, alongside the historic double standard that judges left wing governments much more leniently than centrist or conservative one and rhetorically overstated fears about stability in the region. It’s not that they’re under any delusion about the vitality of democracy in our country it’s that they can’t be bothered to do anything about its collapse.

That’s as much legal analysis as you’ll get out of me with regard to this TSJ. To grant the TSJ the privilege of our detailed legal attention is to implicitly accept it as a real tribunal even if a flawed one. But TSJ is no such thing. To treat it as such is to muddy the waters.

All decisions are taken with complete disregard of what the constitution actually reads.

There’s no point pretending. There’s nothing remotely related to the administration of justice in the decisions the TSJ has been handing down. Maybe Adriana Azzi is a better fit. Heck, probably a profiler of sociopaths can help you more than I can.

I’m out. It may not amount to much, but it’s what I can do for civil disobedience. I can stop pretending. It’s time we all did.

César Crespo

Evil corporate lawyer. Amateur adult person. Political news junkie. Economics dilettante.