Venezuela’s Crippling Democracy

Lina Mesa – Venezuela is no stranger to protests. Since 1999, protests against the authoritarian regime are commonplace. However, a protest on April 4th, which quickly escalated to a standoff, can be attributed to a series of events that began unfolding in Venezuela on March 29th.

First, Venezuela’s supreme court, which is loyal to the regime, ruled that it would now possess the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature.[1] The supreme court contended that the legislators were acting extrajudicially when it decided to absorb all of Congress’ functions.[2] Basically, the supreme court gave itself the power to write all of the laws.[3] The supreme court in Venezuela is comprised of Maduro loyalist and Maduro has been at odds with the legislature since the opposition took control of it in 2016.[4] The supreme court’s decision produced international outrage. Chile, Colombia, and Peru withdrew their ambassadors.[5]

Second, on March 31st, Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega Diaz, condemned the supreme court’s decision.[6] During her annual State of the Attorney General’s Office address, Ortega Diaz rebuked the supreme court’s decision calling a “rupture to the constitutional order.”[7] Ortega Diaz further called for “reflection so that the democratic path [could] be retaken.”[8]

During the protests that erupted on April 4th in opposition to the supreme court’s seizure of power from the legislature, the protestors chanted “[t]he world knows this is a dictatorship.”[9] Venezuela’s crippling democracy was showcased when President Maduro then ordered the supreme court to reverse the most contentious part of its earlier ruling.[10] The protests culminated with the National Guard and national police firing tear gas at the protestors and deploying trucks mounted with water cannons.[11] It remains to be seen whether Venezuela’s democracy will continue to erode. Presently, Maduro’s one man show is apparent to both the international community and to Venezuela’s citizens, and Venezuela’s citizen seem prepared to take measures necessary to ensure that their democracy is restored.

[1] Emily Tankin, Venezuela’s Supreme Court Shuts Down Country’s Congress, Foreign Policy, (March 30, 2017),

[2] Id.

[3] Id.

[4] Id.

[5] Undo that Coup, The Economist, (April 8, 2017).

[6] Id.

[7] Rafael Romo, Venezuelan Attorney General Breaks with Maduro, CNN, (March 31, 2017),

[8] Undo that Coup.

[9] Id.

[10] Id.

[11] Nicholas Casey and Patricia Torres, Anti-Government Protests in Venezuela Turn Violent, The New York Times, (April 4, 2017),

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