HomeNewsBriefHow Will Venezuela Supreme Court Reversal Impact Organized Crime?
BRIEF

How Will Venezuela Supreme Court Reversal Impact Organized Crime?

ELITES AND CRIME / 3 APR 2017 BY VENEZUELA INVESTIGATIVE UNIT EN

Venezuela's Supreme Court reversed a recent decision that annulled the opposition-controlled National Assembly's legislative powers, a significant turnaround in a country where political decisions have substantial impacts on organized crime dynamics.

Venezuela's executive branch asked the Supreme Court (Tribunal Supremo de Justicia - TSJ) on March 31 to reverse the court's March 29 ruling that had stripped the opposition-led National Assembly of its legislative powers, reported RunRun.es. The court assented to the request on April 1.

Early reports seem to indicate that the reversal was only partial. According to RunRun.es, President Nicolás Maduro retains the right to create mixed public-private enterprises without the approval of the National Assembly, as well as the power to reform the country's hydrocarbons law. This was echoed by the Associated Press, which reported that the new ruling "will still allow Maduro to enter into joint oil ventures without congressional approval."

SEE ALSO: Venezuela News and Profiles

The TSJ's earlier announcement had sparked both international and domestic criticism against what was perceived as an authoritarian move by President Maduro aimed at further consolidating his powers.

The magnitude of the now-reversed decision led some of the highest government executives, including the Attorney General Luisa Ortega and Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, to publicly voice their disapproval, according to the New York Times. These dissentions raised the possibility of an erosion of Maduro's political power due to fractures within his inner circle, reported El País.

InSight Crime Analysis

The TSJ's controversial decision and eventual backtracking is the latest evidence of the turmoil rocking Venezuela's political scene, amid deepening economic and security crises. But these maneuverings may also have criminal ramifications, due to the suspected involvement of many top Venezuelan politicial figures in organized crime.

In particular, the early reports indicating that the reversed Supreme Court decision does not pertain to the executive's extended powers regarding the oil industry may be of significance. Venezuela's state-owned oil company Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA) has been at the heart of accusations of widespread corruption -- specifically, that officials diverted billions of dollars from the oil company for their own personal benefit. In the latest case, in February 2017, Venezuelan authorities charged former PdVSA executive Jesús Osorio with allegedly receiving bribes in relation to government contracts worth more than $76 million dollars, reported investigative journalist Maibort Petit.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Elites and Organized Crime

More broadly, the unfolding of recent events clearly underlines a lack of separation of powers between the executive and judicial branches. Maduro's apparent influence over the TSJ -- Venezuela's highest judicial body -- is worrying when considering the country's high levels of impunity and failing justice system.

Combined with the possibility that Maduro's grasp over the country may be loosening due to dissent within his own political camp, the lack of an impartial judiciary could facilitate the further nominations of suspected criminals to positions in the highest levels of government, a trend that is most likely an attempt by Maduro to surround himself with individuals who have as much to lose from a political turnover as the president himself.

In addition, Maduro has increasingly empowered Venezuela's military as a means of consolidating his power, for example by granting the institution full control over the country's food production and distribution network in the context of widespread food shortages. As the Associated Press documented in a December 2016 investigation, this decision led to the military's deepend involvement in food trafficking. Networks of military officials, known as the "Cartel of the Suns," are believed to control a substantial portion of the country's drug trade.

The reversal of the Supreme Court decision suggests that the Maduro government may be susceptible to strong pressure brought by domestic actors and international actors in the face of controversial decisions. But past experience suggests that this is the exception to the rule. When challenged in the past, Maduro has typically opted to thumb his nose at his opponents, rather than attempt to appease them.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

PRISONS / 13 AUG 2021

Political support from career criminals is usually a matter of skulduggery and campaign finance. But one prison gang in Venezuela…

CYBERCRIME / 31 JAN 2022

Scammers in Venezuela are selling desperate people non-existent government food aid packages – in the latest episode of the handout…

ELITES AND CRIME / 11 NOV 2022

The Venezuelan government has placed and rogue mining gangs in its crosshairs, as the military is deployed in Bolívar.

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…