The Venezuelan Supreme Court’s loyalty to President Nicolas Maduro was on full display this week. The NYT:
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has consolidated President Nicolás Maduro’s power with a decision that removes budgetary authority from the nation’s Congress, the only institution that is controlled by the opposition.
The ruling late Tuesday came as opponents of the president prepared to gather enough signatures for a recall referendum to force him from office.
The judges’ decision allows the court itself to approve Mr. Maduro’s budget, which he is expected to present by decree on Friday. The move caps a yearlong effort by the leftist government to use the courts, which are controlled by Maduro loyalists, to neutralize the Congress.
By stymying the ability of the opposition to make use of its electoral majority to initiate overdue reforms that would undermine the country’s failed socialist policies, the Supreme Court has been a reliable ally in Maduro’s attempts to save Chavismo—the Supreme Court has undermined the power of the opposition-controlled National Assembly several times before. All this has taken place against the backdrop of a massive economic meltdown. Power outages, food shortages, and the arrests of “food hoarders” had triggered sizable countrywide protests.
The opposition, which has spent the year preparing for a recall referendum on Maduro, appeared buoyed. But one should never underestimate what a determined authoritarian government, with its paws on the various levers of power, can achieve.
Next steps are uncertain. Strains had already begun to appear in the opposition, between those who favor more direct street action and those who wanted to continue to press Maduro through the political process. Maduro and his people will almost certainly do everything they can to deepen those fissures.