Judicialization and Regime Transformation: The Venezuelan Supreme Court
During the 1990s, Venezuela experienced an accelerated process of judicialization of politics. The profound political changes that the country has experienced since 1992 have deeply affected the nature and behavior of the supreme court, the focus of analysis of this chapter. This period of judicialization of Venezuelan politics can be divided into two distinct phases: 1992–1999, when the supreme court became increasingly active, yet continued to adhere to a formalist practice, and 1999 to the present, when both government and opposition attempted to use the courts to advance their agendas or block their opponents during a period of acute political crisis and threatened regime collapse. This second phase followed the election of Hugo Chavez Frias to the presidency, the election of a constituent assembly and the approval of the new Bolivarian constitution, which dissolved the former supreme court and replaced it with a Supreme Tribunal. The judicialization of politics in Venezuela stands in sharp contrast to that experienced elsewhere in the region. This is not a case of judicialization in a “post-transitional” regime, nor was judicialization conceived of as a means to deepen the existing democratic system. Rather, at a time of threatened regime breakdown, political elites increasingly resorted to the courts. In this sense then, Venezuela represents a case of “top-down” judicialization, as it is driven by political elites rather than by social movements and marginalized groups seeking redress through the courts.
KeywordsAttorney General Supreme Court Judicial Independence Supreme Court Justice Sala Electoral
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