In Venezuela's latest crackdown on all opposition voices, on Saturday the country's newly convened pro-government constituent assembly removed dissident state prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz - the highest-ranking member of President Nicolas Maduro’s administration to break ranks with the dictator - from her job in what critics said was a blatant example of Maduro's new dictatorship flexing its muscles. The assembly voted on Saturday to permanently remove Diaz, 59, from her post after the Supreme Court ruled on Friday evening to suspend her and send her to trial.
Since the opposition launched near daily protests in April, Ortega had become Maduro's main challenger from within the ruling socialist movement, accusing him of human rights abuses, however until today her insolence had been tolerated by the socialist tyrant. Today that ended, when the new constituent assembly, which Ortega said was fraudulently elected last weekend, unanimously decided to remove her in its first session on Saturday. Ortega was replaced with "human rights ombudsman" Tarek Saab, a Maduro supporter.
National Guard officers had earlier surrounded Ortega Diaz’s Caracas offices. She posted photographs of the uniformed guards outside the building on her Twitter account and labeled it a “siege.”
The Public Ministry’s Twitter account said the guards were not allowing workers to enter or leave. Eventually, amid the chaos, she escaped on a motor bike.
Since the newly created legislative body has no checks on its powers, the decision to remove Ortega has been widely panned as an ominous sign of Maduro swerving into full-blown dictatorship, which should come as no surprise to anyone following the fast moving events in the near-insolvent country whose currency lost almost 50% of its value in the past 4 days.
"The constituent assembly is solving Maduro's political problems, handing out quotas, and lynching institutions," said opposition lawmaker Jose Manuel Olivares after news of Ortega's removal.
The "blank check" assembly - which was installed on July 30 despite opposition street protests in which more than 120 people died - also has the right to re-write the constitution, re-arrange state institutions and allow Maduro to rule by decree. Assembly members had said they would fire Ortega the first chance they got, according to Reuters.
Meanwhile, as Venezuela crumbles and implodes, Maduro continues to accuse the U.S. "empire" of waging economic war on Venezuela and refuses to allow humanitarian aid to enter the country. He says the new assembly is the only way to unify Venezuela into a peaceful, prosperous socialist state.
Former Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez, a hard-line Maduro loyalist, was named president of the new assembly and demonstrated just what real delustion and propaganda truly means:
"There is no humanitarian crisis here. What we have is love. What we have is a crisis of the right-wing fascists," said Rodriguez, in a fiery socialist inaugural address which made no sense and in which she paid homage to late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, Maduro's far more capable predecessor.
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Also on Saturday, South America's trade bloc Mercosur suspended the oil rich nation indefinitely adding to international pressure on Maduro. The foreign ministers of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil announced the decision in Sao Paulo, urging Maduro to release prisoners and immediately start a political transition.
Quoted by Reuters, Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Nunes said after the meeting. "We are saying: Stop with this! Enough with the deaths, enough with the repression. It is not possible to inflict such torture on the people." Asked to comment on Ortega's dismissal, Nunes replied with a Latin proverb: "Whom the gods would destroy they first drive mad."
Also on Saturday, Argentina's Foreign Minister Jorge Faurie called Venezuela a dictatorship: "It is very bad to push a brother out of the door, but it did so with conviction because we are watching a situation that causes us great pain," Faurie said. Speaking of symbolism, the Mercosur suspension will not affect trade and migration policies to avoid worsening the humanitarian crisis, Nunes said. "Venezuelans who want to come to Brazil will be welcome." In other words, for all the condemnations by both the US and Latin America, it remains business as usual with the oil rich nation.
Finally, earlier on Saturday, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, the U.S. said in an MSNBC interview that “democracy is over right now in Venezuela,” but dismissed the threat of military intervention there from an outside source.