By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Venezuela's constitutional crisis took a turn for the worse Monday when the Attorney General’s Office was raided by officials from the Comptroller General, an unprecedented happening even in the oil rich country’s amazing political history.
The Comptroller General’s is the office tasked with detecting and pursuing financial misdeeds in the Venezuelan government.
The raids took place as Attorney General Luisa Ortega was delivering a support speech at the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the legislative power that has also been attacked by Maduro using Constitutional powers controlled by his government, such as the Supreme Court, which he stacked with loyalists after he lost the legislature in 2015.
“We are open to the necessary audits, but done with respect, not OLP style,” said Ortega. “OLP” or, “Operaciones para la Liberacion del Pueblo” (Operations to Free the People) are what Venezuelan police call high-risk police raids, which NGOs have denounced as simply “search and destroy” missions: a single OLP last year resulted in two dozen killed.
After the announcement of the Comptroller General’s visit however, Ortega scored a much needed victory against the Maduro administration, when the National Assembly appointed her choice of Rafael Gonzalez as deputy Prosecutor General. The vote for Gonzalez turned into a support event for Ortega, who was greeted by the opposition, her political adversaries until late March and now their staunch supporters.
Earlier on Monday, Comptroller General Galindo told media during a press conference in his office that “commissions have been set up at the administrative headquarters of the Public Ministry (Fiscalia), regional prosecutor offices and schools for Public Ministry attorneys, with the objective being to verify the lawfulness and sincerity of their operations.”
“Denial to supply reports, books or documents will bring about as consequences the sanctions provided for in the law,” Galindo said.
This is the second move in only a few days to curtail the powers of the Attorney General: last week the Maduro-packed Supreme Court (which has never voted against the President) augmented the powers of the Ombudsman’s Office to take over some of the same work of the Attorney General’s.
To make a long history short, Comptroller General Manuel Galindo, a former underling of First Lady Cilia Flores de Maduro, remains faithful to the embattled administration of Nicolas Maduro. But former-Chavista ally Luisa Ortega, the Attorney General, broke ranks with the government in late March over the Supreme Court's "breach of the constitutional order", a move that had “chavistas” label her a “traitor” and “the leader of the opposition.”