In a socialist dictatorship like the one in Venezuela you either support the ruling party or you are branded corrupt. Both Jazz and I have written about the country’s chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Diaz, a longtime supporter of the regime who has recently expressed her disappointment with the government’s actions. It started gradually with her blaming the police for the high-profile death of a protester, a death the government had blamed on opposition forces. Then, earlier this month, Ortega Diaz came out against President Maduro’s plans to rewrite the country’s constitution. She not only opposed it, she encouraged everyone to do so.
A challenge like that was not going to go unanswered for long. Wednesday the country’s Supreme Court, which is packed with party loyalists, issued a ruling that seems aimed at removing Ortega Diaz from any position in government and possibly putting her in prison. From CNN:
Venezuela’s Supreme Court has banned Attorney General Luisa Ortega from leaving the country, and has frozen her assets, ahead of a pre-trial hearing scheduled for July 4.
The inquiry, which was requested by an ally of President Nicolas Maduro, will seek to determine if Ortega committed unspecified “grave errors while in her position.”
If enough evidence is found, Ortega, a vocal critic of Maduro’s government, could be taken to trial.
The idea that this trial will be based on “evidence” would be funny if the likely outcome here wasn’t so dire. In addition to freezing her assets, the court also stripped Ortega Diaz of her investigative powers and handed those to the country’s ombudsman. That move seems intended to prevent any further attempts to hold the government accountable for crimes against its own citizens. The death toll from the last three months of protests is now over 80 and still climbing. The Voice of America reports on what prompted this legal maneuver:
At a news conference hours earlier, Luisa Ortega said her country is facing “state terrorism” and promised to “defend the constitution and democracy even with my life, I swear.”
“What I think is that we have a state terrorism, where the right to protest is lost, where demonstrations are cruelly repressed, where civilians are tried in military” court, Ortega said, calling for restored constitutional order.
She also declared herself an enemy of Maduro’s government.
After the Supreme Court’s ruling, Ortega Diaz responded that she would ignore it. From UPI:
On Thursday, Ortega Díaz said she will ignore the TSJ’s orders.
“This is a provocation against me, with dark purposes. The TSJ is repealing the Constitution and I will not allow it,” Ortega Díaz said.
That might work if anyone in power cared about the rule of law, but clearly, that’s not the case. President Maduro is refusing to allow elections while actively working to rewrite the constitution. His hand-picked Supreme Court has already tried to seize the power of the opposition-controlled National Assembly. The government has put several opposition leaders in prison. Henrique Capriles, another leading figure, was told he could not run for office for 15 years. Now the socialists are using their raw power to take down the one significant voice of opposition left.
The socialists can bottle up the opposition, but the underlying problems are not going away. That means the situation is only going to become more explosive.