Raul Sanchez Urribarri (La Trobe University), ‘High Courts and Authoritarian Consolidation: The Venezuelan Supreme Court under Maduro’s Rule’
Tuesday, 27 November 2018, 2pm-4pm, Auditorium II (University Main Building, Senate Square entry)
The seminar addresses the role of high courts in the context of a political transition from competitive authoritarianism towards full dictatorship. The use of high courts to entrench authoritarian rule – enhancing regime legitimation, bureaucratic compliance and social-control – depends on a series of non-exclusive conditions related to the court system, regime features and political context. Increasing authoritarianism may involve significant costs for both the regime and the judiciary, including losing powers that the judiciary enjoyed under a previous ‘hybrid regime’ configuration. Yet, the benefits secured might outweigh the costs of other alternatives. A reliable, supportive judiciary is not only a rubber stamp. As other institutions in authoritarian contexts, it can help the government solve internal conflicts, extract valuable information for policy making; and operate as part of a functional repressive apparatus. More importantly, at a time of rising authoritarianism worldwide, pro-government judicial decisions could help a flagging regime bolster their claim that the regime is stable, functional and with enough political clout to deliver credible commitments made with international allies, financial institutions and economic actors. These arguments are discussed in the context of contemporary Venezuela under Nicolas Maduro’s consolidating autocracy (2013 – Current), a country where the Supreme Court functions as a ‘judicial authoritarian enclave’ – blocking opposition threats, disowning fundamental rights, supporting new policy solutions, providing key mechanisms to improve the regime’s repressive capacity and enhancing regime legitimacy vis-à-vis domestic and external allies.
Raul Sanchez Urribarri is a Lecturer (Assistant Professor) in Crime, Justice and Legal Studies at the Department of Social Inquiry, La Trobe University (Melbourne, Australia). He holds a PhD in Political Science (University of South Carolina), an LL.M. (Cambridge University), and a Law degree (Universidad Catolica Andres Bello, Caracas). His research focuses on democracy, rule of law and comparative judicial studies, with an emphasis on Latin America. His work has been published in journals such as The Journal of Politics, Law and Social Inquiry and the Annual Review of Law and Social Sciences, edited volumes and other outlets. He is currently working in a book project about informality and the rule of law, with an emphasis on the Venezuelan Supreme Court before and after the onset of Hugo Chavez’s Bolivarian Revolution. The manuscript discusses the notion of judicial loyalties, and explores how political loyalty commitments influence judicial behaviour in this country, particularly in cases of political importance, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. More information is available here.