By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The Constitutional crisis in Venezuela escalated Tuesday in Venezuela, as the opposition said it will no longer recognize the government of Nicolas Maduro and called on citizens to stop obeying the regime, while the Supreme Court initiated impeachment procedures against Attorney General Luisa Ortega, after she pointed out the same things.
In a sentence published Tuesday, the Court said there was enough “merit to put on trial” Ortega and ordered to have her and the complainant, pro-Maduro lawmaker Pedro Carreño, notified. The matter will be further discussed at a public hearing, a date for which was not provided by the Court.
“The regime has placed itself outside of the Constitution and according to article 350 its decisions cannot be recognized or obeyed,” the MUD roundtable of opposition parties announced, hours after the Supreme Court began impeachment maneuvers against Ortega, a newfound ally, who is trying, like the opposition, to stop Maduro from rewriting the Constitution without first taking a popular vote.BRET OUTSIDE, IMPEACHMENT INSIDE
Meanwhile, just as in a Shakespearean play, Tropical storm Bret 2 raged outside, battering the capital city of Caracas with heavy rains, while political conflict and intrigue raged indoors.
Besides the Attorney General - Supreme Court showdown, Maduro tried to contain another scandal: the killing of 17-year old demonstrator Fabian Urbina Monday afternoon, by replacing the head of the National Guard and other high ranking military officers. Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino however, was ratified in the post he has held for the last four years, the longest of any serving defense minister in the Chavez-Maduro era. In an twist adding to the intrigue, Padrino was removed from the Strategic Operational Command.
Over 90 demonstrators have been killed in 82 days of protest, most of them by National Guard, Police or “colectivos”, government-affiliated gangs.
Pro-Maduro lawmaker Pedro Carreno requested that proceedings to impeach Ortega be started Friday afternoon in an “antejuicio de merito” or “merit pre-trial”, a request that the plenary of the Supreme Court admitted Tuesday morning, in an extraordinary meeting of all justices called on by Supreme Court presiding justice Maikel Moreno.
Weeks ago Moreno was included in the Treasury Department’s Specially Designated Nationals list, together with another 11 present and former Supreme Court justices and other Maduro government officials.
Ortega in late March broke ranks with the Maduro administration, saying an effort by the executive-controlled
Supreme Court to usurp the role and functions of the opposition dominated National Assembly was a breach of the Constitutional order.
The rift between Maduro and Ortega grew wider after the President called a Constituent Assembly to write a new Magna Carta, a move Ortega denounced and tried to block legally before the Supreme Court several times, but was rebuffed.
Even if the Supreme Court plenary decides Ortega should be sacked due to a “grave fault”, only the National Assembly can legally remove her, according to existing Venezuelan law, which the government has said it is seeking to change to have the AG removed as soon as possible.