[News] Venezuela’s Supreme Court Strikes a Blow to the Impunity of Liberal Terror

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 22 15:19:37 EDT 2016


  Venezuela’s Supreme Court Strikes a Blow to the Impunity of Liberal Terror

By LUCAS KOERNER, April 22nd 2016

Last week, the Venezuelan Supreme Court blocked 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11926> the extremely controversial 
Amnesty Law passed by the country's opposition-controlled legislature, 
which would have pardoned scores of right-wing leaders convicted of 
violent political crimes.

The bill is applicable to all manner of felonies and 
misdemeanors committed since January 1, 1999, including “damage to the 
national electrical system”, “violence or resistance to authority” and 
even “conspiracy and terrorism”, provided that these crimes were 
perpetrated in the course of “demonstrations, protests, or meetings for 
political purposes”.

The opposition's Amnesty Law even goes as far as to list specific 
incidents that qualify for amnesty, ranging chronologically from the 
2002 US-sponsored coup to the 2014 violent opposition protests known as 

In short, the law amounts to a hand-written confession 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11887> of seventeen years of 
right-wing terror aimed at overthrowing the country’s 
democratically-elected Chavista government.

According to the high court, the legislation would enact a “scandalous 
impunity to the detriment of public morals, subverting the ethical and 
juridical order of the country”.

Despite the entirely reasonable character of this objection, the ruling 
was nonetheless derided as yet more evidence of Venezuela’s 
authoritarian collapse by of the self-anointed ideological guard-dogs of 
liberal democracy.

*Western Apologia for Political Violence*

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch Americas Director José Miguel Vivanco 
<https://www.hrw.org/news/2016/04/14/upholding-abuse-venezuela> the top 
tribunal of “upholding abuse” in sanctioning the criminal prosecution of 
opposition leaders for “legitimate political activities”.

Given HRW’s highly dubious track record 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10301> on Venezuela, it is 
unsurprising that they would categorize as “legitimate” universally 
outlawed offenses such as “individual terrorism”,/ “/use of minors to 
commit crimes”, and “mutiny, civil rebellion, treason, military rebellion”.

In regurgitating the law’s perverse logic that these felonies merit 
amnesty since they were committed with “political purposes”, HRW’s 
alleged human rights advocacy begins to look more and more like a naked 
apology for anti-government political violence in Venezuela.

Even more predictable was the response of the /Washington Post/– the 
mouthpiece of the US neoconservative establishment– which in a recent 
<https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/venezuela-is-in-desperate-need-of-a-political-intervention/2016/04/12/d7071d98-00c9-11e6-9203-7b8670959b88_story.html> cited 
the Supreme Court ruling in its case for “political intervention” in 
Venezuela as if US imperial interference in the South American country’s 
internal affairs was not a long established practice 
<http://www.telesurtv.net/english/opinion/US-Aggression-Against-Venezuela-Fact-Not-Fiction-20150225-0036.html> over 
the last 17 years of leftwing Chavista governance.

Of course, the Western interventionist chorus would be incomplete 
without the US State Department weighing in on the matter.

In the lead-up to the parliamentary vote on the bill, Undersecretary of 
State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson met 
<https://twitter.com/WHAAsstSecty/status/717741738828423168> with Lilian 
Tintori, the wife of jailed far right politician Leopoldo Lopez, issuing 
a call for the “immediate release” of those she termed “political 

Absent from her statement was any mention of the fact that Lopez was 
formally convicted <http://venezuelanalysis.com/news/11502> of leading 
2014’s violent anti-government protests known as “the exit”, which 
resulted in 43 dead and hundreds injured, the majority 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/10580> of whom passerby 
and state security personnel.

*An Excess of Judicial Independence?*

Following the ruling, the US State Department released its 2015 human 
rights report in which the body sharply castigated 
<http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/hrrpt/humanrightsreport/#wrapper> Venezuela 
for its alleged “lack” of judicial independence as well as its “use of 
the judiciary to intimidate and selectively prosecute government critics”.

For a moment, let’s bracket the obscene hypocrisy of these accusations 
coming from a country that has produced such shining examples of 
judicial independence such as /Bush v. Gore/ and /Citizens’ United /and 
whose judiciary has gone to incredible lengths to guarantee due process 
to political prisoners such as Leonard Peltier, Mumia Abu Jamal, and 
Oscar López Rivera.

Let us be clear: Washington’s problem with the Venezuelan Supreme Court 
is not its lack of independence, but rather that it is /too /independent 
from the country’s neo-colonial oligarchy that it refuses to follow 
their dictates.

Prior to Chávez, a man of the aristocratic 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11508> stature such as Leopoldo 
López– the Harvard-educated son 
<http://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/11452> of one of Venezuela’s 
wealthiest families– would never face conviction for his crimes, which 
include publicly inciting the violent ouster of the 
democratically-elected government.

In the eyes of the West, what is thus intolerable about the Supreme 
Court decision to strike down the Amnesty Law and uphold the conviction 
of López and dozens of others is not its supposed violation of the rule 
of law, but its full application against the most powerful elements of 
Venezuelan society.

*Against Liberalism*

In a word, the mortal sin of Venezuela’s judiciary was to defy the 
hegemonic ideology of liberal democracy for whom equality before the law 
is treated as a mere formalism that is professed but never practiced.

In this regard, the Venezuelan Constitution states that, “The law will 
guarantee the juridical and administrative conditions so that equality 
before the law is real and effective…it will especially protect those 
persons… who find themselves in circumstances of clear weakness and will 
punish the abuses and mistreatment committed against them.”

This conception of legal equality as a radical defense of the weak and 
oppressed openly clashes with the liberalism enshrined in the US 
Constitution in which the principle of “equal protection of the laws” 
codified in the 14^th  Amendment is formal in character, lending itself 
to appropriation by corporations who secured the right to personhood 
long before African-Americans.

Within this framework, the Venezuelan Supreme Court found that the 
Amnesty Law is unconstitutional primarily because it amounts to a 
sanctioning of “contempt for the life, integrity, and dignity of… those 
harmed by the amnestied acts, affecting their right to access justice.”

That is, the high court ruled that the rights of the victims of 
right-wing terror– mostly black, brown, and poor– take precedence over 
the privileges of the perpetrators, much to the outrage of the 
Venezuelan oligarchy and its US imperial masters.

What is at stake here is not some local politicized skirmish over 
separation of powers but a profoundly universal ethical dispute over 
what kind of world we want to live in: one in which the normative order 
guarantees the life and human dignity of the oppressed, or alternatively 
one in which their oppressors are given carte blanche to murder and 

  Venezuela’s Supreme Court has been crucified by the powers at be for 
unacceptably choosing the former.

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863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org
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