VOL. 4, NO. 6, PGS. 7–13


The Rule of Law in Latin America
A conversation with Rogelio Pérez Perdomo

This interview was conducted by Javier Toro.

Rogelio Pérez Perdomo is Professor of Law at the Metropolitan University of Caracas and a member of the Venezuelan National Academy of History. He is also the author of the book Latin American Lawyers: A Historical Introduction.

This translation has been automatically generated and has not been verified for accuracy.

What is the rule of law? What is the function of the law?

The rule of law is a concept that has been formed over time. And it is exactly that, a model concept. The rule of law is an idea very similar to the idea of natural law, the doctrine that postulates the existence of certain rights particular to the human condition; in other words, it is an idea that is being built up. There is no country that can be said to be a fully-fledged state based on the rule of law. It is a model that countries approach to a greater or lesser degree. This concept has basically developed around two other concepts: the rule of law and the rechtsstaat. The concept of rule of law, which was developed in England, has to do with respect for the rights of individuals. The concept of rechtsstaat, which was developed by the Germans, has to do with the idea that state officials are subject to the principle of legality, that is, that officials act within the limits of their powers. So, when we talk about the rule of law today, we are talking about these two dimensions.

The function of laws in relation to the rule of law, and this includes the Constitution, is to attribute and limit the powers of officials. Law is understood in several senses. In the most literal sense, it is understood as the acts produced by the law-making body following the proper procedures for law-making. These laws are understood as formal laws. On the other hand, law is also understood as the rules that are accepted by the community. The legislative body is one of the branches of political power made up of representatives of the people who have their own limitations for the exercise of their power. Its first function is to legislate. Its second is to control the other branches, especially the executive. Thus, the acts of each person exercising political power are limited and subject to external controls. This principle that all state officials must be subject to limits and controls is the foundation of the rule of law.

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