Friday, June 18, 2004

Hugo Chavez' Dirty Tricks

It seeems that our favorite Latin American thug is not prepared to take the efforts to legally unseat him lying down.

BOGOTÁ, Colombia, June 17 - The government of President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela is poised to pack the Supreme Court with allies who could decide in favor of the president if an August recall referendum on his rule is as close and contested as expected, an American-based human rights group said Thursday.

A new law signed by Mr. Chávez in May expanded the Supreme Court to 32 from 20 members. It also permits pro-government representatives in the National Assembly to use their slim majority to appoint and remove justices, instead of obtaining a two-thirds majority as was common practice before, according to a Human Rights Watch report released in Caracas on Thursday.

The 12 new justices will probably be appointed in July. But the National Assembly applied the law already, on Tuesday, by annulling the tenure of the court's vice president, Franklin Arrieche, who had voted to acquit military officers involved in a 2002 coup against Mr. Chávez.

The government and its allies, including three members of the five-member National Electoral Council, have also called for restricting or even barring the Organization of American States and the Atlanta-based Carter Center from monitoring the vote, set to take place Aug. 15.

The developments come as the government, fending off the latest challenge from a determined opposition, embarks on a campaign of intense social spending fueled by rising oil revenues.

But political analysts say that if Mr. Chávez cannot win the recall outright, his government could count on the Supreme Court to ensure victory if the referendum results are close or disputed.
I'm sure he'll be willing to make use of it even if the results aren't close; whatever they turn out to be, there's also no doubt that he'll dispute them if they don't go his way.