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Diosdado Cabello declares that Maria Corina Machado is “no longer a deputy”, threatens to imprison her; Maria Corina Machado vows to return to Venezuela

From the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello said today that by accepting Panama’s seat temporarily at the Organization of American States on Friday in order to speak at the meeting, Maria Corina Machado violated Article 149 of the Constitution, which reads: “Public officials cannot accept posts, honours or rewards from foreign governments without the authorization of the National Assembly.” In so doing, Diosdado argued, Maria Corina Machado gave up her position as deputy of the National Assembly, meaning that she is no longer a member of the assembly.

Diosdado also said: “At this moment we are giving the order that Maria Corina Machado will not be allowed to enter this National Assembly again. She is no longer a deputy.” He also highlighted the fact that she could be arrested at any moment, since her parliamentary immunity no longer stood.

With this move, the government continued the trend of dictating what are otherwise judicial decisions from authority. There was no judicial review to determine if Maria Corina really did violate the Constitution in the way Diosdado alleges. He simply went on television and said, “Maria Corina Machado is guilty of this, and as a result, she is no longer a deputy”. And that was it.

He also referred to the Panamanian government as “hostile”. Diosdado said that he will formally denounce Maria Corina for this alleged violation, which he assures could amount to treason.

Throughout the day, there was some speculation as to whether or not Maria Corina would decide to head back to Venezuela, given the day’s developments. She had left the country early this morning to speak at an event in Lima, Peru. All doubts were put to rest in the late afternoon, when Maria Corina announced that she would be returning to Venezuela “as soon as possible”.

Speaking from Lima, Maria Corina said:

We are going to fight on until victory. The brutal regime of Nicolas Maduro thought that through repression, we would become afraid, but instead we have become stronger. To my constituents, I want to tell you that my struggle continues close to yours, and that I will not leave the streets of Venezuela nor those of he world to spread this message of democracy and national sovereignty.
(…)
[The Maduro government] persecutes, suppresses and tortures [dissenters], and wants to annihilate the popular will expressed through the election of mayors and [National Assembly] deputies.

She also said that she knows her rights both as a citizen and as a deputy, and invited Diosdado to read the Constitution, since by doing so he would realize that “he does not have the power nor the mandate from the National assembly to remove a deputy.”

Aside from the fact that alleging that it is treason for Maria Corina to speak at the Organization of American States is a debatable claim at best, Diosdado Cabello is not a complaint from the Public Ministry. He is not the Supreme Court. He is not a sentencing tribunal. Yet he acted as all of those things when he removed Maria Corina as a deputy from the National Assembly and accused her of treason, “because I said so”. The fact of the matter is that the Constitution does not grant anyone the power to do what Diosdado Cabello did today. What happened today happened because of an extremely loose interpretation of the Constitution and a judiciary branch that is subservient to the executive.

 

From the rest of the country

A National Guard soldier was killed in Merida this morning while trying to remove a barricade. Sergeant Miguel Antonio Parra was on duty on the Avenida las Americas near the El Campito neighbourhood of Merida this morning when he was hit in the neck by a bullet and killed.

It is also being reported in the same article that the apartment of a student leader – Gaby Arellano – was raided by security forces. Gaby says that they tore the place apart, and that, “I’m not afraid. If they think that they will force Merida to submit through violence, they are wrong”.

Gaby has been tweeting pictures of the damage the building and her apartment sustained during the raid. This is a picture of the security booth of her apartment complex:

The main door to the building:

And the view out her window:

The National Guard responded by maintaining a large presence in the neighbourhood through the morning. Here are some pictures, all from this morning from Merida:

This one if from around 10:30 AM local time, and shows a mass of demonstrators at the municipal hall of Iribarren, Barquisimeto:

From San Cristobal, Tachira:

Cabudare, Lara state:

This video is from the neighbourhood of Base Aragua in Maracay taken last night. It shows a National Guard truck catching fire after being hit by what looks like possibly Molotov cocktails and fireworks. The woman filming the video, upon seeing the truck catch fire, yells, “Wooh! Quemen esa mierda, malditos!” [Roughly, “Burn that shit! Damn you!”]

Apparently, five National Guard trucks and a colectivo had entered the neighbourhood and were firing tear gas and their weapons against demonstrators in the area.

Last night, 28 year old Adriana Urquiola was killed by a stray bullet, in an event that left another person injured in Los Teques. Adriana was 3 months pregnant.

The shooting happened at around 7:45 PM. The two women had just gotten off a bus. In the near vicinity of the bus stop, barricades had been set up and demonstrators were present. A black Toyota Fortuner apparently drove by and opened fire on the demonstrators, one of which hit Adriana in the head. The injured person – another woman who had walked off the bus along Adriana – was hit in the arm.

Maduro is holding Henrique Capriles personally responsible for the death of Adriana Urquiola. Los Teques is in Miranda state, of which Capriles is governor. Today, Maduro said:

Because the governor of Miranda didn’t put on his pants and go [turn off] that guarimba that they promote and protect… because of that guarimba, for which the governor of Miranda is responsible, Adriana Urquiola unfortunately died.
(…)
I believe that the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia [Supreme Court] has a huge responsibility to to force the governor to [follow orders]. Otherwise, let him leave, let the governor of Miranda leave for good.
(…)
Coward! It’s precisely your fault that a good portion of this coup is going on, it’s because of your own cowardice.

The Supreme Court will hold Daniel Ceballos’s trial tomorrow. The same court that tried and convicted Enzo Scarano last week will oversee the proceedings. He faces similar charges to those that Scarano faced, including failing to obey the Supreme Court’s orders to restore order in San Cristobal.

 

Daily Commentary

I read something like this somewhere online today: “At this point, the PSUV has to get rid of Maduro, legally, as quickly as possible. It’s clear that he has lost a handle on the situation”.

What’s going on in Venezuela goes far beyond Maduro alone. The entire PSUV leadership is tainted by the way the government – not just Maduro – has acted. Venezuela has a vice president who’s using the Constitution as a toy with no regard for law or the legal process, a judiciary branch that is wholly submissive to the executive, a Minister of Nutrition who mockingly dismisses people complaining about line ups to buy food, a PSUV caucus in the National Assembly voting in lockstep to persecute political dissenters and violate constitutional rights…. the whole upper echelons of the PSUV are toxic. It’s not just Maduro.

Since these protests stared, the only prominent PSUV member to come out in opposition to what’s been happening was Vielma Mora, governor of Tachira. He stuck out like a sore thumb back at the end of February for saying that sending the army into Tachira was excessive, and that he thought that keeping Simonovis and Leopoldo Lopez in jail wasn’t right. He retracted his statements the same day, but the fact remains: he’s the closest thing to a visible PSUV member to voice dissent from the Maduro line. No one in the PSUV has publicly said, “This whole ‘imprison opposition mayors and opposition figures through illegal means’ thing might be taking things too far.” Their silence is deafening.

I’m not saying that every single member of the PSUV is a Maduro drone. I’m sure that given the size of the organization, there are undoubtedly many who (at least for now, secretly) think that what the government is doing in their name is wrong. But so far, no one seems to have spoken up, and certainly no one “big”.

If Maduro resigns, the next in line for power is Diosdado Cabello. Not only would that not be an improvement, it would actually be two steps in the wrong direction.

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