CARACAS – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly voted in its opening session on Saturday to remove Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz from office and replace her with the national ombudsman, Tarek William Saab.
Ortega Diaz, who in recent months has been outspoken in her criticism of leftist President Nicolas Maduro and the Supreme Court, was replaced by Saab, who became the first official to be appointed by the new plenipotentiary body, which is tasked with revising the nation’s 1998 constitution.
“That (position) can’t remain unfilled because that would create a problem that we’ve had with the inaction of the Attorney General’s Office,” Constituent Assembly member Diosdado Cabello said in nominating Saab for the post.
Ortega Diaz also was barred from holding any public office.
The vote was held after the Supreme Court notified the Constituent Assembly that it had found grounds to put Ortega Diaz on trial for dereliction of duty, bar her from holding public office and leaving the country and freeze her assets.
Earlier Saturday, Ortega Diaz said Bolivarian National Guard troops had surrounded her office in downtown Caracas, a deployment she described as a “siege.”
Venezuelan authorities had announced since the start of the Constituent Assembly campaign that a “purging” of the AG’s office would be one of that body’s first actions.
On Friday, Maduro accused Ortega Diaz’s office of complicity with an “armed insurgency” in Venezuela, which has been racked by violent anti-government protests since April 1 that have left 121 dead, nearly 2,000 injured and 5,000 arrested.
“The protection the AG’s office has given to violent individuals for three months or more” has created a “social wound” that the Constituent Assembly will help heal, he said.
Ortega Diaz, a former ally of Maduro’s, turned against her boss earlier this year when the Supreme Court assumed the remaining powers of Venezuela’s unicameral legislature, the National Assembly (the legislature had previously been stripped of its budgetary authority).
The high court said the National Assembly was in contempt for seating lawmakers accused of electoral fraud in a bid to create a super-majority.
Although that ruling was later reversed, Ortega Diaz has continued to speak out against Maduro, accusing him of using the Constituent Assembly to install a “totalitarian system.”