In an interview with state TV, the head of the Venezuelan Supreme Court (and the whole Judiciary Branch), Luisa Estela Morales (one half of a dynamic duo with her tocaya, Prosecutor General Luisa Ortega Diaz) said that there’s an ongoing transformation of the justice system.
Her statement is not far from the truth, but the point of that transformation is convert justice into a political weapon against dissidence. Recent developments prove this point:
- President Chavez will reform both the Penal Code and the Organic Code of Penal Procedures, the two main laws which regulate criminal justice in Venezuela, by decree, through the Enabling Law. The idea of one person alone deciding what is a crime is and the penalty it would carry creates a dangerous precedent of unpredictable proportions. Recall that the Enabling Law was supposed to be just about helping those who lost their houses to 2010’s floods.
- The reformed COPP would apparently eliminate of escabinos, two ordinary citizens who, in some cases, decide jointly with the judge (the closest we have to a jury trial). Experts have noted the drawbacks involved. For quite some time, the judiciary has been slow in implement this legal figure, leaving most cases in hand of judges alone (more than half of them have provisional status, so they can be easily dismissed).
- The Minister for Prisons, Iris Varela, announced the controversial idea of “erasing” the criminal records of former convicts. I don’t even want to start on this one, but it will definitely join the files of the Department of “What Could Possibly Go Wrong?”.
- Last but not least, lawyers are now feeling the heat of official repression. In this ocassion, the victim was the lawyer of incarcelated Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, José Amalio Graterol. He was detained in the middle of a trial because he opposed the court’s decision of judge his client in absentia. He’s currently being held at Vargas State Police HQ and his arrest comes hours after he was interviewed in Globovision.
Venezuelan justice is indeed transforming into the red justice her predeccesor Omar Mora openly promoted more than six years ago in front of the whole Supreme Court.