By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The Constitutional crisis and face-off of competing powers took a turn for the absurd Monday and Tuesday in Venezuela as the opposition and the government of Nicolas Maduro each pushed separate, competing elections as well as naming competing deputy Attorney Generals.
The executive-controlled Supreme Court Tuesday morning appointed Katherine Harrington as the new Deputy Attorney General, one full day after the opposition-held National Assembly legislative appointed Rafael Gonzalez to that post, with the approval of sitting Attorney General Luisa Ortega.
If Ortega, as expected, is removed by the Supreme Court, she will be replaced by Gonzalez, or (if the government haves its way) by the pro-Maduro Harrington in a development that promises to complicate matters even further.
Ortega, a supporter of Maduro until March, has become a veritable thorn on the President's side lately, saying the President promoted a breach in Constitutional order and denouncing Maduro's attempts to ditch the present Constitution.
THE CASE OF THE TWIN ATTORNEY GENERALS
Harrington is a highly divisive figure in Venezuela and the opposition rejected her appointment vehemently Tuesday. In March 2015, Harrington was the only woman, and the only civilian, in a group of seven police and military officials sanctioned by President Barack Obama for human-rights violations. As a district attorney, she pursued the government’s case against Antonio Ledezma, the mayor of the city of Caracas, Venezuela’s capital, who was thrown in jail and is still imprisoned for taking an ad in a newspaper calling for Maduro’s oust.
“In any country where there is even a smidge of justice Katherine Harringtion instead of deputy attorney general would be in jail for being a hoodlum,” opposition leader Henry Ramos Allup tweeted as word got out of Harrington’s new post.
ELECTION v ELECTION
The opposition also said Monday night that it was planning to hold a plebiscite on July 16th for Venezuelans to decide if they want their Constitution changed the way Maduro is proposing it, among other key issues, including an open-ended national strike to force Maduro out of power. On July 30th, the government will hold its own elections to elect 540 delegates to a Constituent Assembly that will be tasked with writing a new Constitution.
Sanctions against Harrington proved to be just a taste of things to come: Obama continued the policy while new President Donald Trump expanded and even deepened it. The list now includes several dozen civilian, police and military officials, Supreme court justices, former officials and even private-sector businessmen with alleged ties to corrupt dealings in government. Sitting Vice President Tarek El Aissami (alleged “kingpin” in the drug trade) and Supreme Court head justice Maikel Moreno were both sanctioned by the Treasury Department this year.
ORTEGA REFUSES TO ATTEND SUPREME COURT HEARING ON HER
Meanwhile, to get rid of Ortega, the Supreme Court held a hearing on accusations against her of "grave errors" in her role as the nation's top law enforcement official. Ortega did not attend the trial, denouncing the high court judges as "illegitimate" after most refused to recuse themselves.
The trial went on without her and after closing arguments, Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno -- who spent two year in prison for murder in 1987 -- said the chamber would pronounce the verdict on Ortega in five days.