The increasingly salient debate about the authority of international bodies over state sovereignty is receiving much attention in Caracas this week. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights have ruled in favor of ex-mayor, Leopoldo Lopez, clearing his way to bid for the Venezuelan presidency in 2011. Lopez was previously banned by the Electoral Commission from running for public office in light of corruption charges in place against him (a law that exists in 8 other Latin American countries–you have a case against you, you can’t run). The Chavez administration has ridiculed this ruling, calling it unimportant and of no value. It appeals (again) to the myth-like narrative that evil Yankee imperialism is conspiring to turn the Western Hemisphere against poor old Venezuela.
Whatever truth this myth may actually hold, we can’t let it blur the lines of what is actually occurring.
After reading various outlets about this event, I have three questions in mind: 1- just how valid were the corruption charges against Lopez (considering that in Venezuela, any political opponent could easily be “misrepresented” as a corrupt criminal), 2- did the IACHR actually exercise some type of bias based on US imperial hegemony in the area, as the Chavez administration so ardently claim, and 3- how binding will this international ruling prove to be once the Venezuelan Supreme Court gives their adjudication?
In an interview, Lopez mentioned that Venezuela cannot afford to fail the test of its commitment to democracy, denying the ruling will only be a sign of a weak and authoritarian regime. Legally speaking though, I don’t think that Venezuela can just circumvent the bind that was created upon signing the American Convention on Human Rights; it’ll be interesting to see first what the Supreme Court decides, and second, how the rest of the international community will react.