Venezuela pro-government assembly fires dissident prosecutor
Venezuela's chief prosecutor was fired on Saturday and ordered to stand trial, less than 24 hours after a newly elected legislative superbody was installed with sweeping powers to strengthen President Nicolas Maduro's grip on power, Reuters reported.
The prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, had become Maduro's main challenger from within the ruling socialist movement since the opposition started a round of protests in April. The street marches have left more than 120 people dead as rock-throwing protesters were met by rubber bullets, water cannon and tear gas.
She accused him of human rights abuses and of exaggerating the turnout in last weekend's election of the new 545-member constituent assembly. The opposition, in control of the country's traditional congress, boycotted the vote. This guaranteed that all candidates for the new body would be Maduro allies.
His loyalist Supreme Court sent a letter to the assembly informing it of an indictment against Ortega, accusing her of "alleged commission of serious misconduct," without further outlining the charge.
Earlier in the day, Ortega's office was surrounded by armed National Guard officers who refused to let her enter. Ortega told reporters she was roughed up as she tried to enter her office, claiming that one officer hit her with his body shield. She left on a motor bike amid the chaos.
Also on Saturday, South American trade bloc Mercosur indefinitely suspended Venezuela, adding to international pressure on Maduro to dismantle the newly created assembly and restore democracy.
The constituent assembly replaced Ortega with Maduro's human rights ombudsman, Tarek Saab, a government ally who the opposition says has turned a blind eye to state abuses.