Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Venezuela protesters set fire to Supreme Court building as crisis deepens

from the Telegraph
Anti-government protesters set fire to the supreme court in Caracas, Venezuela, Monday.

This is the twelfth week of upset in the country, as protesters demand the resignation of president Nicolas Maduro and call for elections.

The supreme court Monday voted to reject a motion that would prevent Mr Maduro from rewriting the country's constitution.

Violence broke out in protests at the Supreme Court over a bid to change the constitution, and Venezuela's chief prosecutor said on Monday her family had been threatened and followed by intelligence agents since she split with the government.

Fanned by anger at triple-digit inflation along with shortages of food and medicine, protests have grown smaller but more violent over the past two months, with at least 67 killed and thousands injured.

Luisa Ortega, a former ally of Mr Maduro who has turned against him and the ruling Socialist Party, has questioned his handling of opposition street protests in recent weeks and challenged his plan to rewrite a constitution brought in by late leader Hugo Chavez.

State officials have launched a series of verbal attacks on Ms Ortega, ranging from questioning her sanity to accusing her of promoting violence.

She said she would hold the government responsible if her family was harmed.

Ms Ortega's office said it was investigating the death on Monday of a man called Socrates Salgado, 49, in a coastal town near Caracas. Opposition politicians said he died during a protest.

In April, Ms Ortega successfully challenged a Supreme Court decision to assume the powers of the opposition-controlled legislature, making her the highest official in years to openly break with the ruling party.

She filed a Supreme Court challenge last week to Mr Maduro's plan to elect a legislative super-body known as a constituent assembly, that will have the power to rewrite the constitution and in some cases dissolve state institutions.

The Supreme Court rejected the challenge on Monday.

"The electoral chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice declares that the (challenge) filed by Luisa Ortega Diaz is inadmissible because it is an inept accumulation of pretensions," the court said on Twitter.

In response, Ms Ortega launched another legal challenge, this time claiming that 13 judges appointed to the court in 2015 were put there via an "irregular" process and that they should be replaced.

Police arrested 24 people for their involvement in the daylight attack on a busy office block, which was condemned by Mr Maduro as a terrorist act. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said it was the work of government agitators.

Outside the Supreme Court headquarters in downtown Caracas, protesters backing Ms Ortega were confronted earlier by government supporters.

Mr Maduro says Venezuela is the victim of an "economic war" that he says can only be addressed by a constituent assembly.

The elections council has set an election for the assembly for July 30. The opposition is refusing to participate in the vote, saying it is rigged in favor of the Socialist Party.

Maduro Appointed Kangaroo Court Rubber Stamps Constitutional Rewrite

Venezuela Court Sides With Maduro Over Constitutional Rewrite

Amid mounting protests, the court blocked a motion to stop President Nicolas Maduro from instituting legislative changes that favor his government.
from The Atlantic
Venezuela’s Supreme Court voted Monday to reject a motion that would prohibit the nation’s president, Nicolas Maduro, from rewriting its constitution. The decision comes just days after Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega Díaz, stood on the steps of the Supreme Court with a copy of the nation’s blue constitution book and defended Venezuela’s current laws. “What’s at play here is the country,” she said, “the integrity of Venezuelans.”

A few weeks earlier, on May 24, Maduro signed a document calling for a “constituent assembly” to draft a new version of Venezuela’s constitution in what he considers to be an effort to bring peace to the nation. The assembly would also have the authority to dissolve public powers and convene general elections—stipulations that could give Maduro undue influence. With voting for the new assembly scheduled for July, many have accused Maduro of giving extra weight to populations that might secure his re-election. The president of Venezuela’s democratically elected congress, Julio Borges, has since called the new assembly “nothing more than an evil announcement meant to divide, distract, and confuse Venezuelans.”

In many ways, Maduro’s bid for a new constitution has further united Venezuela’s opposition groups, who continue to carry out massive demonstrations and demand that the president be recalled from office. In recent months, opposition protestors—angered by the nation’s triple-digit inflation and dire shortages of food and medicine—have clashed with security forces, throwing rocks and jars of feces at officers, only to be met with tear gas and rubber bullets. In the last two months alone, at least 68 people have been killed in anti-government protests, with thousands more injured.

Photos released Monday show opposition protestors lighting a fire outside Venezuela’s Supreme Court headquarters in Caracas and vandalizing an office within the building. Many protestors were shoved to the ground as pro-government armed groups, or “colectivos,” attempted to blockade the headquarters. In Miranda, an opposition-controlled state in northern Venezuela, the nation’s interior ministry even took control of the state’s police force, citing its alleged criminal behavior and human rights violations. “It’s clear [the interior ministry will] try to use the police against the people,” said Henrique Capriles, the state’s governor and a member of the opposition.

Last week, Ortega criticized the government’s “ferocious repression” of opposition protestors. “Those opposed to the [new constitutional] assembly are called traitors, fascists, terrorists. We cannot live in a country like that,” she said. Despite her loyalty to Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, Ortega has been a fierce critic of the current president, who has been known to jail opposition leaders and limit access to newspapers that speak critically of his government. Most recently, she has accused the president of violating universal suffrage. “The appeal I am attempting is to defend the rule of the people,” she said Thursday.

In the wake of mounting criticism from Ortega, the Maduro government has proceeded to blame her for recent violence, dubbing her a de facto opposition leader. On Monday, the Supreme Court—which remains loyal to Maduro—said her motion to stop the new constitution was inadmissible, since it lacked sufficient legal grounds. Ortega is now opposing the National Assembly’s approval of 13 Supreme Court officials and 21 substitute judges back in 2015, when the Maduro government maintained a legislative majority. In an interview with Union Radio, she said her aim was to restore Venezuela to its former stability. “It can’t be that institutions aren’t working here,” Ortega said, noting that Venezuela’s legislative bodies were lost and needed to be recovered.
How long will these stall tactics be allowed to continue to crush Venezuelan liberty?