Not so much banana-like, Supreme Court finally decides…..
When I began writing this blog, my main objective was to try to convey, particularly to those that live in more developed countries, a sense of what countries like mine are like and what makes us the way we are. I actually began with thoughts on a decision by the Venezuelan Supreme Court not to prosecute four of the Generals that refused to obey orders from President Hugo Chavez to use the military to contain demonstrators in April. This refusal led to the President’s resignation. A new temporary President took charge and decided to dissolve the National Assembly, Supreme Court and other powers, which led to an outcry both in Venezuela and abroad which resulted in the return of Hugo Chavez as President.
Well, the day of my first blog the Court refused to approve the proposal to prosecute the Generals for rebellion. As I said then, I found it depressing that we all knew the decision and the vote even before it took place. What was even worse was that the President of the Court chose a Judge from the minority to write the new opinion. This bizarre decision was simply a way of delaying the decision while the Government pressured the Judges to change their minds. And pressure they did, but not enough as the new decision was also rejected, even if one vote changed sides in favor of the Government. At that time, there was no recourse but to choose a judge from the majority. The President pressured the Court repeatedly, mixing the refusal of the Generals to use force against the people with the fact that the temporary President violated the Constitution. Chavez went as far as saying that if “the referee did not act properly he would get rid of the referee”. But he pressure did not help and today the Court decided by an 11-8 vote that the Generals were not guilty of rebellion (for which you need the use of force).
As the article by Friedman in the NYT today points out, freedom and democracy, however weak, are necessary prerequisites for development. While in India, where democracy is ingrained, the richest man is a software entrepreneur, in Pakistan next door, it is one of the tribal Chiefs that rule the country. Venezuela’s institutions are weak. Two years ago, these judges would have never dared go against the President, he was all powerful and going against him meant losing their jobs. (It is not a lifetime job in Venezuela). But with time, his power, his popularity and his majority in the National assembly have all eroded. This means he has to play a democratic game, which so far he is not ready to do. In his heyday he had 80% popularity, which was bad. Unfortunately for him, he now has barely 20%, bad for him, but I would like to believe good for our democratic system. Our institutions maybe weak, but in time decisions like today should help us strengthen them.