Texas Tech University

Expert: Venezuelan Supreme Court Effectively Eliminates Legislature

Glenys Young

March 30, 2017

Iñaki Sagarzazu specializes in Venezuelan politics and how institutions’ roles in politics affect individual voters.

Sagarzazu Inaki
Iñaki Sagarzazu

After months of political battles based around the increasing autocracy of Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro, the country's pro-president Supreme Court effectively eliminated the legislature today (March 30).

The 2015 elections left a divided government: on one side, Maduro, on the other, the opposition-controlled National Assembly. As the economy fell deeper into recession, inflation accelerated and shortages increased, the opposition requested a referendum to remove Maduro from office.

In 2016, the Supreme Court ruled constantly against the National Assembly's constitutional prerogatives, slowly eroding the checks and balances dictated in Venezuela's constitution. In a last attempt to change the regime, the opposition started pushing for a recall referendum, as established in the constitution; however this also was canceled by pro-government lower courts.

The Organization of American States (OAS), the region's main collective governing body, has increased pressure on Maduro in recent weeks, threatening to suspend Venezuela's membership if it does not hold elections.

Iñaki Sagarzazu is an assistant professor in the Texas Tech University Department of Political Science who specializes in Venezuelan politics and how institutions' roles in politics affect individual voters. His research has been published in the American Journal of Political Science, British Journal of Political Science, Political Behavior, West European Politics, Political Science Research & Methods, Latin American Politics & Society, and Policy Studies Journal as well as in several book chapters in edited volumes. He teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in Latin American politics and political communications. Sagarzazu sometimes posts his political analyses on Twitter and his blog. He is fluent in both English and Spanish.

Iñaki Sagarzazu, assistant professor of political science,

Talking points

  • On Tuesday (March 28), the OAS met to discuss the situation in Venezuela. It highlighted the concern of the continent over the deterioration of Venezuelan democracy, human rights and overall health with food and medical supply shortages.
  • Also on Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued a decision requesting the government reconsider its international organization memberships. In the same decision, it said requesting the application of the Democratic Charter of the OAS would be considered a betrayal to the nation – a type of crime stipulated in military laws – and that the government should use all of its resources to stop that from happening.
  • Finally, it redefined what parliamentary immunity meant, effectively ending it.
  • Today the Supreme Court followed up with another decision taking all legislative competencies from the National Assembly until it begins following the law, as judged by the Supreme Court.

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