By Angel Alberto Gonzalez (dpa)
HAVANA TIMES — Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz’s decision to question 33 magistrates’ legitimacy and to ask for a preliminary trial against the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ), has made the open war between this Chavista defender and the Maduro government official, the latter accusing her of “treason”.
An activist ever since her youth in revolutionary Leftist movements, Ortega Diaz defended the Bolivarian Revolution and the legacy of the late president Hugo Chavez (1999-2013), who she labeled “the greatest humanist” of this century.
The main difference between Ortega Diaz and the opposition is that the Attorney General opposes Venezuelan president, Nicolas Maduro, as a way to defend Chavez legacy, something which places her within a group known as the “dissident chavistas”.
The last divorce episode between Ortega Diaz and Maduro was the Attorney General’s decision to oppose the president’s call for a Constitutional Assembly, to allegedly reinforce rights established in the Constitution which Chavez enacted in 1999 and to reestablish national institutions.
Ortega Diaz decided to introduce legal recourse last week, which was quickly denied, against the Constitutional Assembly as she considered this mechanism to be a threat to Chavez’s Constitution.
“I think that we are destroying President Chavez’s legacy with this [assembly], this is one of President Chavez’s main legacies,” she argued while holding a Constitution booklet in her hand.
Ever since she was appointed Attorney General in 2008, Ortega Diaz’s career at the head of the Attorney General’s Office has been full of controversy and until recently the opposition was accusing her of being a knight of Chavismo, lacking any real independence.
One of the Attorney General Office’s most controversial actions under her leadership was to criminally accuse opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who led a movement of anti-government protests which resulted in 43 deaths. Lopez was put on trial and sentenced to 13 years and 9 months in prison.
Like many human rights organizations and foreign governments, the opposition is defending Lopez’s innocence and attributes the death toll to brutal government “repression”.
Up until the 2015 general elections, which the opposition won handily, the Attorney General was working in line with Maduro’s Government.
However, the opposition’s victory in the legislative elections and the swearing in of a new National Assembly (Congress) in January 2016 would mark the beginning of a conflict between the country’s highest powers which would ultimately end up distancing Ortega Diaz from the government.
After the elections, the conflict between Parliament and other powers worsened to such an extent that the Supreme Court has been gradually declaring invalid all of Parliament’s decisions, after declaring it in “contempt” for swearing in three legislators whose election had been suspended by the high court after receiving a complaint that they had allegedly bought votes.
Meanwhile, a parliamentary committee decided to revoke the designation of 13 main magistrates and 20 reserve magistrates appointed in the final days when the government held a parliamentary majority, maintaining they committed irregularities in order to stack the Supreme Court with supporters to hold onto political control.
Venezuela’s economic situation has been deteriorating with inflation at about 500%, according to private analysts, plus a chronic situation of food and medicine shortages. This has led to Maduro’s popularity dramatically falling, which polls place at being less than 20%.
The government’s conflict with Parliament worsened when the TSJ issued two rulings in March, which would practically dissolve the National Assembly. That ruling led Ortega Diaz to denounce the “break in the constitutional order” which made her separation from the government clear.
The opposition has responded to these rulings by reporting that Maduro is looking to implement a “dictatorship” by dissolving other powers and has decided to call for protests to remove the government from power; protests have now been going almost daily for over two months, leaving 67 people dead thus far.
Amidst these protests, Ortega Diaz has criticized police “repression”, the “ridiculous” legal rulings and the government’s call for a Constitutional Assembly, which she is trying to neutralize by legal means.
The opposition has noted that the Attorney General “put herself on the people’s side”, but nobody has forgotten how she acted in cases such as that of Leopoldo Lopez, who has already spent three years in prison.
According to some opponents, Ortega Diaz is just an opportunist who jumped the Chavista ship before it sinks.
The government has promised that they will dismiss officials who have failed in their duty to provide appropriate justice, starting with the Attorney General, once they swear in the Constitutional Assembly.
In the face of this reality, Ortega Diaz, and perhaps the rest of the “dissident Chavistas”, find themselves in the ironic situation of their political future being bleak, both if Maduro goes ahead with his Constitutional Assembly or if the opposition manages to remove Maduro from power.
Venezuela is the Cuban government’s most important trade partner, source of oil and political ally. President Raul Castro staunchly defends Maduro’s presidency.