Venezuela’s Other Crisis: A Justice System Dismantled From Within

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David Smilde

The folks at World Politics Review invited me to write a piece on the rule of law in Venezuela (opening it from here should get you around the paywall, as will opening it from Twitter), something I have had on my agenda for awhile. In the piece I look at the underlying issues that have given Venezuela its last place ranking in the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index.

Rule of law does not get as much attention as other political and economic issues but runs through everything from the stagnated police reform and prison violence, to lack of private sector investment, to judicial harassment of political opponents. And unlike many issues in which there are plausible arguments in favor of the government’s policies–for example the economy, foreign policy, or participatory regime–defenders of what has happened in the judicial system are few and far between. Perhaps the only bright spot has been the creation of the Ombudsman’s Office (Defensoria del Pueblo) which in actual practice has been a disappointment.

Much of what I write comes from close reading of an analysis carried out by the International Commission of Jurists and published in June 2014 (see the full Spanish language report here, English language executive summary here). Human rights group Provea’s yearly reports are also a good resource. See “Derecho a la Justicia” for every year from 2003 to 2013.