Dixon's support for impunity disqualifies her
Choose other magistrates for
the International Criminal Court
Graciela Dixon may be highly qualified for a lot of things. As leader of the International Association of Women Judges, somebody who has taught and written about the law and a veteran jurist, she's qualified for a lot of jobs in her profession. Right now, however, she's one of five candidates for three magistrate positions on the International Criminal Court.
That's a problem, because Dixon has been one of the leaders of a court majority that has time and again forbidden investigations of public corruption and human rights violations.
Oh yes, one can spin arguments, and she has, about why the expansion of impunity for public corruption and human rights violations is just and proper under Panama's constitution and laws. And yes, we do need a new constitution to replace the one we got from the dictatorship, and new laws that strip away the dodges for crooks in high places. But those needs are insufficient excuses for Dixon's and the Supreme Court's sordid record.
The whole idea of the International Criminal Court was to eliminate impunity for human rights violators who hide behind the powers of their offices and are protected by elaborately rigged legal systems. But Graciela Dixon has held that there can be no investigations or prosecutions for the disappearances that happened during the dictatorship, and the world doesn't need that sort of jurisprudence on that particular court.
Hugo's constitutional package
It's a bit too simplistic to say that the constitutional changes that Venezuelans will vote to approve or reject on December 2 are Hugo Chávez's. He proposed 33 of the amendments, and the legislature --- dominated by his supporters --- added 35 more. In any such legal grab bag there are bound to be good things and bad.
According to a poll taken for a pro-government newspaper, the "yes" side started out with a three-to-one advantage, and with a "no" side divided between those who will vote against the package and those who will boycott the referendum, it may seem that the measure's passage is a foregone conclusion. However, that same poll showed less that 50 percent decided in favor and since then opposition to the reforms has come not only from the usual adversaries but also from within the Bolivarian coalition. It may not be an easy win for Chávez after all.
The reform package would not on its face make Hugo Chávez president for life. It would just make presidential terms seven years instead of six and allow someone to be re-elected as long as the voters will allow it. It also weakens elected governors and transfers a lot of local powers from elected offices that opposition members might win to nebulous assemblies that could look something like New England town meetings or something like Cuba's party-controlled neighborhood structures.
People who like the ideals of the Bolivarian Revolution ought to be concerned about the possibilities that might be opened. That starts with the chance that someone whom they don't like could become a long-term president. More insidiously, the proposed changes would mean over the long term that there would be fewer opportunities for new leaders to gain experience in the rough-and-tumble of democratic government, and the danger in that is the creation of a generation of mediocre conformist opportunists to head the Bolivarian movement.
Socialists might like many of the economic changes, and many of these are designed to respond to real obstacles that a disloyal opposition has interposed. But economics is never an exact science, and it's generally better to leave room to tinker by carrying out economic policy through more easily changed laws and administrative rules rather than to impose tight constitutional strictures that may be good in one set of circumstances and harmful in another.
And the restrictions on freedom of the press and other democratic liberties in a state of emergency? In times of insurrection or war those kinds of things get imposed anyway, but it's not a good idea to enshrine them in a constitution.
Venezuelans must decide about a constitution for Venezuela, on the basis of their nation's interests rather than those of their president, let alone those of another country. They should be allowed to do so without coercion or foreign interference.
Whatever the result, the best thing that could happen for Venezuela would be the turning of a page to a new political paradigm. A return to the pre-Chávez system is not an option, but a new politics based upon different opinions among those who have supported the Bolivarian Republic would be a positive development.
Bear in mind...
I have a higher and grander standard of principle than George Washington. He could not lie; I can, but I won't.
Stuffed deer heads on walls are bad enough, but it's worse when they are wearing dark glasses and have streamers in their antlers because then you know they were enjoying themselves at a party when they were shot.
Fanaticism consists in redoubling your effort when you have forgotten your aim.
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