Chavez has launched an unabashed assault on judicial independence. This assault began in 2004 with a court-packing scheme that filled the bench of the country’s Supreme Court with political allies of the president, and gave the executive branch the power to evict justices whose rulings don’t mesh with the regime’s imperatives. In 2010, Chavez-aligned legislators changed the rules on judicial nominations to allow the appointment of a slew of Chavez-aligned judges.
Numerous judicial officials have faced harsh consequences for showing independent judgment. One judge, Maria Lourdes Afiuni, has spent the last three years in pre-trial detention for authorizing the conditional release of a banker accused of corruption. The judge in her case has publicly pledged fealty to Hugo Chavez.