The Parody of Democratic Powers: Now the Judiciary, in December the Elective


Even though democratic practices have shaped the mentality of our civilized societies, it is not difficult to assume that, by now, anyone is capable of understanding without awe how "revolutionary justice" works in any system proclaiming it. We have seen the same thing in Bolshevik and fascist systems; in those regimes which have raised the banner of anti-colonialism or Islamic orthodoxy; in the France of Fouquier-Tinville, in the Germany of the Nuremberg Laws; and in the seventy executions of senior officials that have taken place in the last three years in the Korea of Kim Jong-un. Behind it all, you can always find the mystifying verbiage on the new order that must be illuminated; on past injustices; on the revitalization of the soul of the people that only the great leader is able to do, determined as he is to uproot with his iron hand the weeds of decay and degeneration. And we all know perfectly well that the end is the justification of despotism in order to retain power by using violence. Nothing else.

It is also clear for everyone that such regimes are never presented as opponents of democracy and freedom, but rather the opposite, as their genuine supporters against the scam of "bourgeois democracy". Indeed, to say that despite the oppression to which they subject their citizens is not an easy task and, for decades, such attempts have involved the deploying of an impressive rhetorical device in which to root the tenets of their ideology. But, once ideologies got lost in precisely that babel they themselves raised, the public opinion of our time chose to recognize democracy by its form only, so if a regime seemed a democracy, because it had its characteristic institutions, one had to think it was. That way, and after they tried to supplant the liberal notion of democracy with their own idea of what freedom meant, revolutionary totalitarianism devoted itself to also impose their bias about notions such as the constitutional State, the rights of citizens, the tasks of public power and the exercise of popular sovereignty, all of them universally accepted signs of democratic identity.

Chavism was a milestone for the success of this new model which I qualified as "parodical totalitarianism" in an article for Cuadernos de pensamiento político. The establishment of a dictatorship had been typically characterized by the non-existence of legitimate institutions but rather de facto ones; however, the Venezuelan creature of the Castro regime was capable of having both traits, as it maintained the legal and institutional fabric derived from an apparently free and sovereign constituent process, only it was completely occupied until it became the instrument of its tyranny. When citizens resorted to such institutions, the arbitrariness of government became strengthened, as they only used them to endorse it. In a book published in 2014, El Tribunal Supremo de Justicia al servicio de la revolución, four Venezuelan lawyers warned that, out of more than 45,000 judgments issued in the last nine years by the body responsible for the legality of government actions, none has been an adverse decision for the Executive. Not the expropriation of industries, companies or land, nor controls over currency, costs and prices, nor the laws of the Assembly that have expanded the powers of the president to outrageous limits, nor the persecution of dissidents: nothing has deserved a reproof of the government's conduct by the "Judiciary".

What is then so astonishing in the arbitrary condemnation that has befallen Leopoldo López? If someone hoped he would perhaps benefit from the mercy that finally managed the conditional release of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, a prisoner of Chavez whose freedom was advocated by Human Rights Watch and even Noam Chomsky, and who was inhumanly abused and even raped in prison, it will be important to emphasize that the objectives of a regime such as the one in Venezuela are reduced to one: retaining power, and it is clear that Leopoldo López is a leader whose courage and bravery jeopardizes the lacklustre leadership of Chavez's successor (the latest popularity polls give him 22% of the electorate). Therefore, if there was no point in thinking that this sham trial would be used as something more than removing the threats in Venezuela's march towards slavery, nor should we believe that the regime will look for something else in the forthcoming parliamentary elections of 6 December. The actions of the Venezuelan people and the international pressure to prevent the circumvention of the so-called electoral authorities, as submissive as the judge who has sentenced Leopoldo, will hold the key not only to the prisoner's release from Ramo Verde prison but also to that of the entire Venezuela.