By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- The Venezuela Supreme Court controlled by Nicolas Maduro said Monday it was lifting the immunity of three lawmakers from the opposition-controlled National Assembly legislative.
The plenum of the Supreme Court issued a sentence against Tomas Guanipa (lawmaker from Caracas), Jose Guerra (also representing a sector of Caracas, a Professor of Economics and a former high-ranking official with the Central Bank) and Juan Pablo Garcia (from gas and oil rich Monagas state), charging them with: Treason to the Fatherland, conspiracy, instigating insurrection, civilian rebellion, crime concert (conspiracy), and usurpation of functions. Two justices abstained. The session was closed to the public.
“There is no valid legal interpretation for these proceedings, or charges, except that these are the workings of a dictatorship and said dictatorship is working to dismantle the National Assembly,” lawyer Carlos Nieto, head of local legal aid NGO “Ventana a la Libertad”, told the Latin American Herald Tribune. “If you look up the Penal Code, you will see that these are very serious charges, adding up to several years, but in the end, screw the Penal Code, they will just do as they wish.”
National Assembly President Juan Guaido, the lawmaker who claimed the mantle of interim President January 23rd, denounced the possibility of such a maneuver Sunday night. And the US Embassy to Venezuela (now relocated to Bogota) also asked Maduro to refrain from further harassment in a series of tweets Monday morning. But it was all for nothing: Maduro is pushing ahead with the attacks, days after he decided to abandon a Norway-sponsored dialogue effort with the opposition.
Constant attacks against the Assembly since late 2015 have landed Maduro and his regime in hot water before, but apparently this is the only strategy that he has left, after severe sanctions from the US and other countries have crippled Maduro’s capacity to maneuver outside Venezuela, at least financially.
Since the present opposition-dominated Assembly was elected in December 2015, Maduro and his Supreme Court has worked to nullify it: it stopped recognizing it officially, declared the whole legislature to be in contempt and then it named a new illegitimate legislature -- the National Constituent Assembly, an entity that does not legislate, but merely negates everything the other Assembly decides. All the while the US and other allies of the opposition have accused Maduro of undermining democracy and the rule of law by harassing the Assembly, but to no avail.
As a result of the harassment against the Assembly and similar policies, the U.S. and other nations have sanctioned several hundred present and former Venezuelan military and police officers, civil servants, Supreme Court justices, cabinet members and businessmen, including Maduro himself, his wife Cilia, Maduro’s son from a previous union -- Nicolasito, Cilia’s children from a previous marriage and her nephews.