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

ELITES AND CRIME / 11 AUG 2014

Well over 100 political candidates in Peru have been linked to drug trafficking cases, highlighting the heightened risk of criminal…

EL SALVADOR / 30 NOV 2015

El Salvador's Supreme Court has charged the former director of the country's social security institute with illicit enrichment, highlighting the…

BRAZIL / 8 MAY 2020

The accusations, both legal and political, against Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro have come in thick and fast: alleged interference in…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Who Are Memo Fantasma and Sergio Roberto de Carvalho?

24 JUN 2022

Inside the criminal career of Memo Fantasma  In March 2020, InSight Crime revealed the identity and whereabouts of Memo Fantasma, a paramilitary commander and drug trafficker living in…

THE ORGANIZATION

Environmental and Academic Praise

17 JUN 2022

InSight Crime’s six-part series on the plunder of the Peruvian Amazon continues to inform the debate on environmental security in the region. Our Environmental Crimes Project Manager, María Fernanda Ramírez,…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Series on Plunder of Peru’s Amazon Makes Headlines

10 JUN 2022

Since launching on June 2, InSight Crime’s six-part series on environmental crime in Peru’s Amazon has been well-received. Detailing the shocking impunity enjoyed by those plundering the rainforest, the investigation…

THE ORGANIZATION

Duarte’s Death Makes Waves

3 JUN 2022

The announcement of the death of Gentil Duarte, one of the top dissident commanders of the defunct Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), continues to reverberate in Venezuela and Colombia.

THE ORGANIZATION

Cattle Trafficking Acclaim, Investigation into Peru’s Amazon 

27 MAY 2022

On May 18, InSight Crime launched its most recent investigation into cattle trafficking between Central America and Mexico. It showed precisely how beef, illicitly produced in Honduras, Guatemala…