For a while there, the news out of Venezuela seemed to be moving in some sort of historic arc leading toward the expulsion of dictator Nicolas Maduro and the installation of opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. But the situation rapidly moved toward a stalemate, with Maduro inviting in even more of the Russian military to bolster his position. Then, last week, the tyrant had one of his flunkies “investigate” Guaido on trumped up charges of campaign finance irregularities and bar him from running for office for fifteen years.
This all seemed to be leading up to a repeat of the hardball tactics Maduro employs against anyone who challenges him. Yesterday he set the stage for what many of us have been expecting all along. One of Maduro’s pet judges on the nation’s highest court began proceedings to strip Guaido of the immunity from prosecution traditionally afforded to the leader of the National Assembly.
Venezuela’s chief justice on Monday asked lawmakers to strip opposition leader Juan Guaido of immunity, taking a step toward prosecuting him for alleged crimes as he seeks to oust President Nicolas Maduro.
Supreme Court Justice Maikel Moreno said Guaido should be prosecuted for violating a ban on leaving the country when he went on a tour of Latin American nations that back a change in Venezuela’s government. The opposition leader is also accused of inciting violence linked to street protests and receiving illicit funds from abroad.
It’s unclear when the pro-Maduro National Constituent Assembly will consider whether to remove Guaido’s immunity from prosecution as head of the National Assembly.
When Maduro effectively scrapped the country’s constitution and rewrote it to suit his needs, he transferred virtually all legislative power from the National Assembly to the new “National Constituent Assembly” which is comprised of the dictator’s own, hand-picked candidates. (Much the same as the current makeup of their high court.) There seems to be little doubt that the Constituent Assembly will bow to Maduro’s wishes, removing Guaido’s immunity and opening the door to his arrest and imprisonment following some sort of kangaroo court hearing.
In a way, it’s somewhat surprising that Maduro is even going through all of these transparently fraudulent steps to remove the person challenging his authority. I’m frankly surprised that Guaido hasn’t simply been murdered in the streets, with the attack being attributed to “rogue outside forces under the command of the United States” and the crime mysteriously going unsolved. That’s traditionally been more of Maduro’s style.
Short of that he could have ignored Guaido’s immunity and had him arrested immediately. Following the rule of law has never been much of a hindrance for the dictator. But perhaps this show of following the rules (even if he’s making them up as he goes along) is a sign that Maduro is no longer quite so secure in his own invincibility. The endless protests around the country may very well have shaken him up and he’s feeling a need to attempt to repair his public image a bit.
Either way, it’s looking increasingly likely that Guaido is going to meet the same fate as everyone else who has challenged Maduro’s tyranny. Absent something close to a miracle, the leader of the National Congess will soon wind up wasting away in one of Maduro’s dungeons… or worse.