Even though Venezuela has not stopped being on the International Newspapers’ covers over the last 20 years, right now in 2017, it can be said that Venezuela has really caught the attention of the International Community again. This time, due to the reports of one of the most powerful women in Venezuelan politics.
Going back to the past
Luisa Ortega Díaz is a Venezuelan lawyer who served as the General Prosecutor of Venezuela from December 2007 to August 2017.
The beginning of her public-administration career came in 2002 when serving in the Ministerio Público (Public Ministry). Ortega Díaz was working closely with the Chávez administration, when, in December 2007, she was appointed by the then-established National Assembly as the General Prosecutor, for a six- year period, starting in 2008.
She was ratified in 2015 as the General Prosecutor of the country, and subsequently, she was working alongside Maduro’s government, right after Chavez’s death. It is fair to note, that Ortega Díaz held one of the most important public administration ranks in Venezuela and that she has always stated her positive views on Socialism.
A decade later: 2017
However, a decade after her appointment things have changed drastically, both for her and for most of Venezuelans.
In March 2017, she warned on national television that the Constitutional order was being broken into pieces, after two sentences dictated by the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ, or Supreme Justice’s Tribunals), took away the official powers that the National Assembly held when President Maduro decided to call for a new National Constitution that will eliminate the Carta Magna idealized by Hugo Chávez Frías in 1999.
Ever since this happened, she has become one of the most critical dissidents of Maduro’s government due to the fact that she is speaking against the prolongation of constitutional powers by the those in the official office. She has also become a leader -whether she agrees with it or not- on the Venezuelan opposition because she is defending the only institutional order held by the opposition parties, the National Assembly.
From March onwards, Ortega Díaz has repeatedly appeared on National and International news outlets in order to raise awareness of the protests that have -once again- shaken up the country and where more than 120 individuals have died through the existence of the ‘’State’s terrorism’’, as she has said.
Last June, the Supreme Court banned her from leaving the country and froze her monetary assets, after this, she momentarily hid while waiting for the situation to calm down. However, the new National Constitutional Assembly (those who are going to draft the new Venezuelan Constitution), dismissed her as a General Prosecutor on the 5th of August, making this one of the first decisions the National Constitutional Assembly took. Moreover, on August 16th, 2017, the SEBIN (or Bolivarian Intelligence Service) broke into her house abruptly.
Ortega’s South American tour
On Friday the 18th of August, news erupted that Luisa Ortega Díaz had travelled to Colombia to ask for asylum. Even though the news reports started appearing more loudly about this situation, it was the Colombian Government who confirmed that the former Prosecutor was now on Colombian soil alongside lawmaker husband and former Constitution maker in 1999, Germán Ferrer, who is also being accused by the new General Prosecutor Tarek William Saab, of being part of a $6 million extortion ring that operated in the Public Minister under Ortega’s watch.
Ortega and Ferrer arrived in Bogotá on Friday on a private airplane from Aruba – Colombian’s President Juan Manuel Santos wrote on his official Twitter account: ‘’The General Prosecutor Luisa Ortega is under protection from the Colombian Government. Asylum will be given – if requested’’.
Nevertheless, on Tuesday 22nd of August, Ortega travelled to the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, to attend a meeting of the Mercosur group, on Wednesday 23rd.
During this public meeting, Ortega presented incriminating evidence against High Ranking Officials, the President of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela Nicolás Maduro Moros, evidence against Delcy Rodríguez who is now the President of the National Constitutional Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, and many more.
She also stated that she ran away from Venezuela because she was avoiding a national prosecution from the Government towards her, which started when she announced -among other things- that the President was involved in the corruption and bribery scandal that involved the Brazilian companies Odebrecht and Petrobras. According to Ortega Díaz, Venezuelan public figures received more than $98 million in bribery, made from 2006 to 2015.
Double side of everything
These last pieces of important information presented by the former General Prosecutor brings up several questions on the already intense debate of ‘What is truly happening in Venezuela?’. For example, ‘How trust-worthy is Ortega Díaz? Is she a reliable source of information?’ Even though she is now making all these claims internationally known, she did occupy the same position for many years, so, why did she not come forward before, when she had everything in place in order to present evidence against the government she was working for? Why did she not appeal to the international community in 2013 when Maduro was elected as President?
The irony of this situation
The new -momentarily- replacement General Prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, also holds other relevant ranks within the Government, as he is the People’s Defensor. This means that he is now officially performing in a dual way – if Venezuelan people must go to a Public Institution because their rights have been violated or any other reason alike, Saab will act as their Defense against the Government, but he will also be acting as the Official Prosecutor. How can the same person hold these two antagonist roles -even momentarily- within the same government, is something many people wonder?
Furthermore, on Tuesday night, Maduro branded Luisa Ortega Díaz as a fugitive from Venezuelan’s justice, and he is now alerting International Police Organizations (such as INTERPOL), that both Ortega and her husband Ferrer are fugitives.
As of Wednesday night, there is still not enough information on whether Ortega Díaz will ask for asylum in any country, or if she will accept the President of Colombia’s proposition of asylum for Colombia. When she arrived at Panama’s airport a day before, she was asked whether she was heading to the United States of America, to which she replied ‘’that I cannot tell you yet’’. However, on Wednesday 23rd of August, she has stated that she will ‘’take all of this evidence to several countries, such as United States of America, Colombia, Brazil and Spain’’.