CARACAS – Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has gone from zero to hero in the eyes of the opposition after breaking ranks with the government of President Nicolas Maduro over his efforts to consolidate power.
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor has gone from zero to hero in the eyes of the opposition after breaking ranks with the government of President Nicolas Maduro over his efforts to consolidate power.
The move by Luisa Ortega Diaz has not been without personal and professional cost, however, as the country’s government-dominated Supreme Court has positioned itself to prosecute her for allegedly committing “grave errors” in her role as the nation’s top law enforcement official.
In a statement issued on Tuesday, the court said it had approved a request from a socialist party lawmaker to lift Ortega Diaz’s protection from prosecution.
The opposition was quick to condemn the ruling, saying that Ortega Diaz was being targeted for her decision to break with the government over its plans to gut the opposition-controlled National Assembly and attempt to rewrite the constitution.
In the past few weeks, as Ortega Diaz has pursued a number of legal actions seeking to block Maduro’s power grab, government supporters have mounted a campaign to discredit her, accusing her of being crazy or a spokeswoman for “right-wing terrorists.”
Ortega Diaz stood her ground in the face of the high court’s move, saying the ruling was an attack on the very foundations of Venezuela’s democracy.
“Hanging over the country is a bleak outlook that could destroy the state,” she told Union Radio.
Although a long-time loyalist, Ortega Diaz has emerged as one of the voices most critical of Maduro within the government. She has denounced the president for betraying the legacy of the late Hugo Chavez, who crafted the nation’s current constitution.
She was appointed chief prosecutor in 2007 and reappointed for another six-year term in 2014. Under the current constitution which Maduro now wants to dump, she can only be removed by the National Assembly.
On Monday she vowed to continue her fight and touched on what is widely thought to be her strongest suit against the government: investigations into corruption by top officials.
“We have to begin demanding that they [the officials] start providing the bills of where all this money is coming from that they spend on stages and for the marches,” Ortega Diaz said. “Maybe what they spend on stages would be better used buying medicine and food.”
Meanwhile, the opposition Democratic Unity Alliance vowed to redouble its campaign of street protests seeking Maduro’s removal that have so far left at least 70 dead and hundreds injured and arrested.
In its harshest dismissal yet of Maduro, it vowed to disavow all actions by the government as it called on Venezuelans to organize themselves in “committees to restore democracy” to block Maduro’s plans for a July election to choose delegates to a constitutional assembly under rules that heavily favour the government.
“All Venezuelans need to stand up to rescue our nation’s democracy,” National Assembly President Julio Borges said in a press conference surrounded by top opposition leaders.
In the coming days the opposition would announce a number of actions building up toward one last permanent national protest to thwart Maduro, he said.