On Friday we saw the breaking news of Venezuelan tyrant Nicolas Maduro and his minions on that country’s highest court essentially stripping the legislature of all their power. That resulted in an immediate international outcry, with many nations threatening to pull their diplomats out of the country. There were also massive protests in the streets, but that’s really nothing new these days. The Venezuelans have been protesting the fact that their money is worthless and they are literally starving to death for quite a while now. Normally, President Maduro ignores such things for the most part, but this time he might have gotten an inkling that this was a bridge too far. In less than 48 hours the court rolled back their previous decision. (Washington Post)

On the instructions of President Nicolás Maduro, Venezuela’s top court on Saturday walked back its attempt to incapacitate the country’s opposition-controlled parliament, following widespread condemnation across the Americas.

Maduro, like the late Hugo Chávez before him, routinely lashes out at criticism from abroad, so Saturday’s reversal appeared to be a rare instance in which international pressure caused Venezuela’s leader to blink.

Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s highest court, said in a statement that the court had not intended to undermine the country’s stability when it essentially stripped lawmakers of their powers this week, accusing them of acting in contempt of prior court rulings.

While this may give the appearance of “good news” on the surface, it’s actually a sign of precisely how broken the Venezuelan government is and the peril facing their citizens. In any functional democracy, the court wouldn’t be taking orders from either the executive or legislative branches, nor would it be seeking to strip the powers of either of them. They would act as a check on the other two branches. The fact that Maduro’s hand picked judges can be ordered to pull such a stunt and then be commanded to reverse their own decision in a matter of hours shows precisely what a joke their judicial system is these days.

If there’s any bright spot to all of this it’s the fact that Maduro seems to still be capable of recognizing reality when it slaps him in the face forcefully enough. This is obviously not a sign that the dictator has suddenly seen the light, had a “Come to Jesus” moment and plans on ruling in a benevolent fashion. But his treasury is essentially depleted, the nation is running out of resources, the people are rioting and Venezuela has some serious debts coming due. Under those conditions he seems to realize that he’s going to need some friends in foreign countries if his nation is to avoid total collapse or the prospect of his own citizens hanging him from a meat hook in the public square. If he backed down on this, perhaps some savvy international diplomacy could force his hand in terms of additional reforms and treating his people a bit more decently.

If not, the picture in Venezuela will continue to grow even more grim and the effects will likely spread out across the region. We already saw the capitol of Paraguay going up in flames this week and Brazil is feeling the impact of a flood of refugees fleeing starvation and oppression. We really don’t need any more collapses in South America at this point, because when their problems become serious enough, the fallout eventually washes up on our shores.