December 14, 2009

Siempre queda por caer

Quico says: The decision to jail judge María Lourdes Afiuni, following a bizarre series of events that saw Hugo Chávez flip out after the judge ordered - apparently without permission - the release of disgraced Bolibanquero Eligio Cedeño (who promptly fled the country), is a timely reminder that, no matter how bad you think things have gotten, there's always farther left to fall.

Judge Afiuni was jailed after a furious Chávez launched the kind of tirade against her that, had anyone made it about him, would immediately have raised howls of "magnicide" from the government side. Saying that in Bolívar's time people who did what Afiuni did would've been shot, Chávez presented his decision to throw her in jail almost as a humanitarian concession.

One way or another, Afiuni must have realized the risk she was taking: the first judge to rule in favor of Cedeño - on a procedural motion in 2007 - lost her job, had her kids almost kidnapped, and ended up having to seek asylum in the U.S. The last judge to do so lost her seat on the court of appeal.

It's easy to forget now that less than six months ago, we were incensed by the sight of Chávez ordering judges merely fired for making judicial decisions he didn't like. Our outrage from that time already looks positively quaint by contrast, and that was this year!

Yesterday, judges paid for handing down the "wrong" decisions with their jobs, today, they're paying with their freedom, tomorrow, they'll pay finish that sentence.

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