A Brave Woman and Supreme Court Justice Speaks Out

November 4, 2010

Few people dare say in Venezuela what they think, least of all if they are civil servants. One exception is Justice of the Supreme Court Blanca Marmol de Leon. Justice Marmol has not only been outspoken when needed, but has also expressed the dissenting voice in many decisions which were clearly biased by the influence (and power) of the Government on Court members.

Thus, kudos to Justice Marmol for her statements today. In any other country what she is saying would create an upheaval, generate investigations and the like. In Venezuela, they are just part of every day life. Another lonely voice making accusations that show what a farce this Government is.

Here are the highlights:

“The independence of Judges is lost, they are not autonmous. They are scared because they can be fired or jailed”

“The Judicial Power is threatened. Judges are afraid and in a country where judges are afradid, citizens can not sleep well”

“The Venezuelan Supreme Court favors the policies of the Government”

In Venezuela, Supreme Court Justices last for twelve years or until retirement age. The Chavez administration wants to retire eight (out of 32) before January, so the current National Assembly selects and elects them. Legal? Yes! But it certainly violates the will and mandate of the people, as Justices need two thirds of the votes to be elected.

A brave woman indeed!

(Disclaimer: While I have never met Justice Marmol, I do know her husband, a fellow physicist)

19 Responses to “A Brave Woman and Supreme Court Justice Speaks Out”

  1. […] By bjohns15 Just this past week, Venezuelan Supreme Court Justice Blanca Marmol de Leon stated that the judiciary is lost: The independence of Judges is lost, they are not autonmous. They are […]

  2. moctavio Says:

    You said:

    “When the new TSJ starts all the judges are chavistas. ”

    That was what I was saying was not true.

    Yes, that TSJ was handpicked by Miquilena, mostly because Chavez knew little about Judges and left Miquilena to do it, but on the scale of lack of ethics if Chavez is 1 Miquilena was like a 5 and actually chose some real judges. It was later when the Court was expanded from 20 to 32 that Chavez chose Judges who could not even speak well.

    That Miquilena Court, heard a case I know a lot about. The Government even sent a lawyer to argue one side. That side lost.

  3. bruni Says:

    In any case, I salute her for speaking out.

  4. bruni Says:

    I am no talking about her in particular, Miguel, since I do not know her case but I do know that every single judge of the TSJ had to have the rubber stamping of Luis Miquelena.

    Maybe because she was not in the constitutional or administrative branch (I think she is a penal judge, isn’t she?), she received the OK anyways.

  5. moctavio Says:

    That is incorrect Bruni, the new TSJ was not formed all by Chavistas, they did appoint non-Chavistas such as Marmol de Leon and other who were high level Judges in the system and were known to be serious. I assure you she has never been pro-Chavez.

  6. Maria Gonzalez Says:

    Thank you for your good summary of the recent historical events related the justice system in Venezuela (~50 years). It is also important to point out the abstention in that 1999 to vote for a new Constitution was very high, but I can remember the exact %.

  7. bruni Says:

    Stig, Cecilia Sosa step down in August 1999 and before she stepped down, she asked for retirement. This was done after she was one of those that flirted the most with the idea of the Constitutional assembly.The new Constitution was voted the 15 of December 1999 in the middle of Vargas disaster. The goverment refused to declare the state of emergency because it wanted the Constituion passed. The next day, Dec 16, the new members of the TSJ were already in place hand-picked by Luis Miquilena, who was Chávez mentor and eminence-grise at the time.

    When the new TSJ starts all the judges are chavistas. It is only later, when Miquilena and Chavez have problems that the Miquilena’s judges start disgressing from Chavez policies. It is for that reason that Chávez invents the “court packing”: artifically increasing the number of judges and nominating only those that are 100% loyal.

    IMHO there are no good guys in this story. Neither the judges from the old CSJ nor those of the new TSJ acted according to what was expected of them.


    Venezuela is suffering today from the flip-flopping and lack of institutional standing of the old CSJ and the current TSJ.

    The whole judicial system has been plagued by political nominations, over the years, it always existed and now Chávez perfected the technique.

  8. Antonio Says:

    It is always a dilemma in dictatorial regimes whether to keep quiet and look after your family, or become a political activist, or go into exile, or collaborate with the regime. We all make our choice. Justice Marmol has not been quiet, or gone into exile, or become a collaborator. She always opposed the politically motivated judgements of the court. What else do you want?

    Although a judge should not become a political activist while serving as a judge, Justice Marmol has chosen to make some political statements as she reaches the end of her tenure, and not before. What is wrong with that?

    I agree with Miguel: she is a very brave person.

  9. loroferoz Says:

    “it was Cecilia Sosa that was seen as a brave defender of principles and the others, including Marmol de Leon, were seen as more interested in their salaries than defending democracy.”

    I would not know.

    In 2000, the Supreme Court was not yet completely in the hands of Hugo Chavez and there was no talk of a revolution. For that matter neither was the Assembly. And at the very least they had to deal and bargain and show some balance in their proposals. The Supreme Court (and others) routinely passed judgement against Hugo Chavez’s wishes.

    If anything, it was easier to speak out and harder to be made to suffer consequences. I would not put it past the pettiness of the “revolutionaries” to mete out some punishment for Marmol Leon for her daring. That they do so or not will more probably depend on whether it will tarnish their image abroad any further.

  10. Kepler Says:

    Buen comentario de Stig. Realmente a mí me asombra (o más bien me molesta) que tanta gente se haya callado durante tanto tiempo.

    La gigantesca mayoría apenas habla cuando se va a jubilar o pierde un puesto o algo así.

    Qué país tenemos, hombre?

  11. firepigette Says:

    “Few people dare say in Venezuela what they think, least of all if they are civil servants.”

    In my opinion, there are many more brave women than men on the psychological level.On the physical level there tend to be more brave men which is why more sign up for war.

    But men are often way too much into saving face.

    As women often have no face( image) to save( our status is usually limited), we have a far tougher psyche.It’s a bit like having nothing less to lose 🙂

    Even here in my little USA town, it is proven that men will be MUCH better attended to in the emergency room than a women, so we know we have to fight for ourselves.

    We cannot usually rely on groups of friends to hide behind either so we usually go it alone.

    In a psychological battle,count on a woman to say what needs to be said.Then count on a man to do what needs to be done

  12. Stig Hess Says:

    Strange how the perspective changes. In 2000 when the revolution first mocked the constitutional order giving the Asamblea Constituyente a mandate it didn’t have, it was Cecilia Sosa that was seen as a brave defender of principles and the others, including Marmol de Leon, were seen as more interested in their salaries than defending democracy.

    Now Marmol de Leon is the brave hero…

  13. Kolya Says:

    As to male or female judges, what’s the percentage of female judges in Venezuela? (If no numbers are available, guesstimates are okay.) I know that even before Chavez, when compared to other countries, Venezuela had a fairly high number of females judges. Marmol and Alfiuni are women. Are there fewer male judges or are they wimpier than the females?

  14. metodex Says:

    shes a woman with more balls than all judges,police chiefs,high-rank military and many man and women around Venezuela.I wish there was more people like her. I wish many people like her would stop being scared and say what needs to be said.

  15. Robert Says:

    So perhaps she sees the writing on the wall and won’t be serving in January? Does Venezuela have a “forced” retirement age for judges?

  16. Humberto Says:

    She is indeed a brave woman.

    JFE: she will not be ousted. My understanding is that she is close to retirement.

  17. Gringo Says:

    (Disclaimer: While I have never met Justice Marmol, I do know her husband, a fellow physicist)

    Who has undoubtedly corrupted his wife’s thinking with the nefarious thought processes used in “bourgeois science.” 🙂

  18. JFE Says:

    Bets are on. How will she be ousted?. I say they will trumph some fake corruption and morality charges on her and revoke her immunity (even if that is not technically legal). After that it is straight to jail in a couple of months.

  19. deananash Says:

    It’s exactly what the country needs…Leaders willing to stand up and SACRIFICE – which is what she has done. (She’ll pay for her comments, just wait and see.)

    Hopefully I’m wrong and Chavez will disappear soon, but that’s just wishful thinking.

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