Courts between Democracy and Hybrid Authoritarianism: Evidence from the Venezuelan Supreme Court Academic Article uri icon


  • This article offers a theoretical discussion about courts in “hybrid regimes” that evolve from formerly democratic countries. The evolution toward authoritarianism typically allows governments more latitude to reduce judicial independence and judicial power. Yet, several reasons, including legitimacy costs, a tradition of using courts for judicial adjudication and social control, and even the use of courts for quenching dissent may discourage rulers from shutting down the judicial contestation arena and encourage them instead to appeal to less overbearing measures. This usually leads to a decline of the judiciary's proclivity to challenge the government, especially in salient cases. To illustrate these dynamics, I discuss the rise and fall of judicial power in Venezuela under Chávez's rule, focusing on the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court. Formerly the most powerful institution in the country's history, the Chamber briefly emerged as an influential actor at the beginning of the regime, but a comprehensive intervention of the judiciary in 2004 further politicized the court and effectively reduced its policy-making role.

publication date

  • 2011