publicidad
Rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela.

Analysis: Venezuela has lost its democratic facade

Analysis: Venezuela has lost its democratic facade

The minute the Supreme Court said it would take over the National Assembly’s functions, the democratic façade fell off.

Rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Carac...
Rally against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro’s government in Caracas, Venezuela.

Although the Venezuelan government has become increasingly authoritarian since the early 2000s, last month was the first time it openly attacked democracy.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

On March 29, the Venezuelan Supreme Court, controlled by the executive branch, took over the functions of the National Assembly. Although this is not the first time the Venezuelan government tried to expand its control over other institutions, unlike previous power grabs, so far, this decision has worked against President Nicolás Maduro’s administration and could potentially ignite regime change.

Eroding democracy

For the past two decades, democracy in Latin America has eroded. Democratically elected presidents like Hugo Chávez in Venezuela (replaced by Nicolás Maduro in 2013), Evo Morales in Bolivia, Rafael Correa in Ecuador and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua have used constitutional amendments to increase the powers of the executive and stay in office indefinitely. Alone, each of their amendments did not represent a strong threat against democracy. But together, they have turned these countries into competitive authoritarian regimes.

For the most part, the international community has watched the erosion of democracy in Latin America, and in particular in Venezuela, from the sidelines. Pro-democracy tools like the Inter-American Democratic Charter, approved by the Organization of American States in 2001, were designed to deal with overt threats against democracy, such as civilian or military coups.

publicidad

But a slow erosion of democracy does not quite fit that bill. Unlike the military dictatorships that governed countries like Brazil (1964-1985), Chile (1973-1990), Argentina (1976-1983) and Uruguay (1973-1985), Chávez, Morales, Correa and Ortega did not take power by force. They did not close Congress or the courts, or cancel elections. On the contrary, they called for nationally elected constitutional assemblies, held referendums and further legitimized their authority using special elections.

Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro.

In Venezuela, Chávez and, more recently, Maduro, held a total of 11 elections, while they concentrated executive power, destroyed the system of checks and balances and curtailed civil rights. Imposing international sanctions against a regime that keeps such a democratic façade is hard. Without a clear threat against democracy, any move by the international community could be seen as a violation of Venezuela’s sovereignty.

Domestically, groups opposing presidents attempting to erode democracy face a difficult situation as well. Unlike civilian or military coups, the erosion of democracy happens over time, giving the opposition ample opportunities to fight back. Because they keep a democratic façade, however, presidents willing to undermine democracy are hard to “delegitimize.”

publicidad

It was easy to claim that Augusto Pinochet in Chile was a dictator. He attained power by force and immediately closed democratic institutions, canceled elections and began killing, torturing and detaining his opponents. Not so much Hugo Chávez. He came to power democratically, left Congress and courts open, held elections and allowed the opposition to run for office. Even though electoral contests have not been free or fair in Venezuela since 2008, the democratic façade has made it hard to convince citizens to turn against the government.

The mask of democracy comes off

The mask of democracy in Venezuela, therefore, has put both domestic and international actors in a difficult position. Last year, the government canceled a recall referendum against the president and indefinitely postponed regional elections. Even then, the opposition was unable to galvanize enough support for regime change domestically or abroad.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court rulings changed that. In practice, the government had been circumventing the National Assembly since January 2016, arguing it was in contempt. However, up until March 29, the administration had been able to deflect criticisms. After all, Congress was there: Its members held sessions and produced legislation. The government just failed to follow, enforce or abide by it. For example, last year, the Supreme Court accepted Maduro’s economic emergency decree, which sought to widen his powers for 60 days.

The minute the Supreme Court said it would take over the National Assembly’s functions, however, the democratic façade fell off. This decision is comparable to former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s to close Congress and rule by decree for seven months. Similar to what happened then, two weeks ago, several countries in the region, including the U.S., made strong pronouncements against the Venezuelan court’s rulings. Regional organizations like the OAS and Mercosur drafted resolutions asking the government to fully restore the powers of the National Assembly and Perú recalled its ambassador.

publicidad

Domestically, there were also important consequences. The opposition coalition, MUD, strongly condemned the decision. The president of the National Assembly publicly ripped up the rulings’ transcripts. Since then, the MUD has organized nonviolent protests every other day asking the government to remove the justices and schedule elections. More importantly, perhaps, high-level Chavistas, supporters of former president Chavez, dissented for the first time in a long time. On March 31, the Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who so far had been loyal to the regime, denounced the rulings as unconstitutional and called the government to restore the powers of the National Assembly.

It’s unclear what will come of all of this.

So far, it seems that neither opposition nor government is ready to back down. Maduro has used violence to repress the opposition’s peaceful demonstrations, but the MUD keeps calling people to the streets.

With these rulings, the government unwillingly opened a window of opportunity for the opposition. By overtly threatening what little was left of Venezuela’s democracy, the administration decreased its legitimacy domestically and abroad. In that context, peaceful protests are a valuable tool. They are likely to increase pressure against the government, and with it, perhaps deliver some concessions to the MUD. Although this outcome will not automatically deliver a return to a true democracy, it could potentially pave the way for one.

*Laura Gamboa, Assistant Professor of Political Science, Utah State University

The Conversation
publicidad
publicidad
Nelson Denis, author of 'War Against All Puerto Ricans,' details how the commonwealth's 119-year-long association with the U.S. has produced total economic and governing dependence. With over $70 billion in crushing debt, Puerto Rico's governor turned to the courts on Wednesday to put certain debts before a federal bankruptcy court.
We traveled to Ciudad Juárez to see if hundreds of thousands of jobs in the Mexican maquiladora industry would return to the United States if Trump were to modify or abandon the NAFTA free trade agreement, as his government is considering. A border tax would have serious consequences in Mexican cities.
A wave of demonstrations in Venezuela has left several dead and hundreds more detained in the last two weeks. Univision reporter Tamoa Calzadilla explains how a democratic crisis, inflation and shortages of food and medicine have sent Venezuelans into the streets.
Gina Potes and Patricia Espitia were attacked with acid in Colombia, a country with one of the highest number of attacks of this kind. They have created a sisterhood, which they have used to help other victims and raise awareness about these brutal attacks.
As the legend goes, a UFO landed in Capilla del Monte in 1986, leaving a mark on the side of the Pajarillo mountains. Since then, this Argentinian village has lived off UFO tourism. It's currently hosting its annual Alien Festival.
The announcement to scrap the benefits came as a bucket of cold water for the Cuban migrants who just arrived in the United States. As this group waits for their papers, the uncertainty grows on whether they will ever be reunited with the relatives they left on the island.
A group of Argentines diagnosed with mental illness set up a radio station from where they broadcast their experiences
How Fidel Castro's plan to save Cuban baseball unraveled. The once mighty amateur baseball champions have lost much of their talent in recent years to U.S. Major League Baseball. Now the Cuban government is in discussions with MLB to stop the desertions. But will a Trump presidency make that more difficult?
A half-century of armed conflict has left behind 8 million victims in Colombia. It has also affected the country's unique natural resources. We explore the war’s impact on Colombia’s environment.
Forty three students in Mexico were abducted two years ago, and to this day, none have ever been found. When his son Jorge disappeared, New York City plumber Antonio Tizapa began to run marathons, not to win, but to send a message at the end of each race: he won’t stop until he finds his son or the truth about what really happened on that shameful day. On Sunday, Antonio and 20 friends will be running the New York City Marathon.
The evidence against El Chapo: undercover recordings, intercepted communications, protected witnesses’ declarations, drug seizures, and a confession. As U.S. prosecutors prepare their case against the world's most feared drug trafficker, this is what the government's case is built around.
Six months after the U.S. president visited the island, Cubans are divided over his impact. A government reform program is on hold as anxious residents pray for a tourist invasion.
Cubans seeking to flee the island are taking to rustic, homemade boats in increasing numbers since the U.S. and Cuba agreed to normalize relations 18 months ago.
La Tropical beer was popular in Cuba before the 1959 Revolution, but the factory was nationalized and the brewery later closed.
In Mexico, a country where the media is often accused of being bought and sold by political parties or cowed by criminals, reporter Javier Valdez was a rare breed: a dedicated reporter working at RioDoce, an independent weekly newspaper in Sinaloa, investigating drug trafficking and organized crime. Valdez was murdered on Monday. Univision interviewed him in 2012 for this video about his work.
“Somos una coalición entre funcionarios militares, policiales y civiles, en contra de este gobierno criminal”, asegura piloto que sobrevoló helicóptero en Caracas
“Capturaremos al helicóptero y a los que han hecho este ataque terrorista armado contra las instituciones de país”, aseguró Nicolás Maduro.
Neida Sandoval confesó qué hizo al enterarse que su hijo adolescente veía pornografía
Siendo madre de dos adolescentes, Neida Sandoval relató el momento en el que se enteró que su hijo veía pornografía en internet. Lo que le dijo nos dejó sorprendidos a todos.
Así recuerda Thalía a Valentín Pimstein, el padre de la telenovela rosa
En Despierta América recordamos el papel del productor chileno de historias de amor, quien falleció este martes a los 91 años a causa de un paro respiratorio.
El momento exacto en el que Francisca golpea a Ana Patricia en la cara con su larga cabellera
Cada vez que suena el tema de Nuestra Belleza Latina, Francisca Lachapel recuerda sus días en la pasarela y comienza a desfilar. ¡Y no le importa encima de quien pase con tal de lucir como reina!
publicidad
Incertidumbre por posible cambio en las leyes sobre envío de remesas a Cuba
En la actualidad, cualquier persona en Cuba puede recibir remesas, a excepción de los miembros del Concejo de Ministros y otros altos funcionarios con cargos militares. Pero con la nueva política de Estados Unidos hacia la isla, muchos cubanos dentro y fuera de Cuba temen que más personas podrían perjudicarse.
¿En qué situación migratoria se encuentran los venezolanos con la situación en su país?
La situación parece agravarse cada día más y miles de venezolanos han abandonado su país. Muchos se han quedado en Miami. Irving González, abogado de inmigración, habla sobre la situación migratoria en que se encuentran ahora mismo y cuál es el futuro para ellos. ¿Podrá haber un asilo político que se realice más rápido? ¿O un estatus de protección temporal?
Paul Manafort, exjefe campaña de Trump, se registra como cabildero para países extranjeros
La Ley de Registro de Agentes Extranjeros (FARA) cubre cualquier actividad de cabildeo, consultoría y relaciones públicas destinada a influir en la política exterior estadounidense en nombre de una nación extranjera soberana, un partido político o un funcionario gubernamental extranjero.
Cinco niños intoxicados por exponerse a cloro gaseoso en Tampa
Amanecen recuperándose cinco niños de Tampa que resultaron intoxicados tras verse expuestos a cloro gaseoso durante sus lecciones de natación. Según indica el dueño de la piscina, una fuerte tormenta hizo que se disparara el interruptor de una de las bombas de agua provocando que el químico se acumulara en las tuberías. Los socorristas dijeron que la acumulación provocó que dos galones y medio del químico se filtraran a la piscina.
México
Paolo Goltz dice adiós al América y será refuerzo de Boca Juniors
El defensor argentino pasó tres años con la escuadra azulcrema donde consiguió un título y un subcampeonato.
Fútbol
Toda la información y noticias sobre lo último del fútbol mundial
Otro ex del América acompañará a Darío Benedetto en Boca Juniors
El delantero confirmó que se quedará una temporada más jugando en la Bombonera, donde cerró la temporada con 21 anotaciones. Paolo Goltz se unirá a la aventura argentina.
Latinos que triunfan: Nicolás Lodeiro, el pequeño gigante del Seattle Sounders
Cada día son más los jugadores latinoamericanos que llegan a los Estados Unidos y aportan su talento en el mundo del deporte. La historia de este habilidoso futbolista uruguayo es muestra de ello.