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.

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