Venezuela’s new legislative super body removed the country’s chief prosecutor and ordered her to stand trial in its first session on Saturday, confirming opposition fears that it would use its powers to root out critics of President Nicolas Maduro.
The prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, had become Maduro’s main challenger from within the ruling socialist movement since the start of opposition street protests in April, which have left more than 120 people dead as rock-throwing protesters were met by state security forces firing rubber bullets and water cannon.
Ortega accused Maduro of human rights abuses and of fudging the results of last weekend’s election of the new 545-member constituent assembly. The opposition, in control of the country’s traditional congress, boycotted the vote, meaning that all candidates for the new body were Maduro allies.
His loyalist Supreme Court sent a letter to the assembly announcing its indictment of Ortega, accusing her of “alleged commission of serious misconduct”, without providing details.
Ortega’s office was blocked by armed National Guardsmen. She said she was roughed up as she tried to enter the building, claiming that one guardsman hit her with his body shield. Ortega ended up fleeing the chaos on a motor bike.
By sunset the scene had calmed but the National Guard kept access to the street in front of the building blocked. A half block away a colorful street mural was painted on a wall saying “The Constituent Assembly Will Go Forward.”