Daniel Ceballos has been removed from his post as Mayor of San Cristobal and was handed a sentence of 12 months in jail. That makes Ceballos the second mayor to be imprisoned this week, Scarano having been sentenced to 10 months in jail last Wednesday. Ceballos was found guilty of contempt of court for not having complied with the Supreme Court order to get the protests under control in San Cristobal. The decision was just given out within the last 10 minutes.
A commission of opposition National Assembly deputies went to the Supreme Court this afternoon to denounce Diosdado Cabello, whom they claim has prevented Maria Corina Machado “from exercising her duties as a [member of the Assembly]”. The document submitted to the court is called a recurso de amparo, a remedy that calls to the attention of the court that individual rights have been violated. It essentially forces the court to look at the issue before them. The document filed at the Supreme Court claims that Diosdado Cabello’s actions at the National Assembly yesterday regarding Maria Corina Machado amount to a derrocamiento (“overthrow”, or “deposition”).
One of the deputies present, Miguel Angel Rodriguez, said:
This remedy introduced before the Supreme Court demands the right to a defence, the presumption of innocence and due process.
Another deputy, Alfonso Marquina, pointed out that Diosdado Cabello does not have the legal authority to remove a deputy from the National Assembly. He pointed out that the only legal ways for a deputy to be removed from his/her post at the National Assembly are: 1) the death of that deputy, 2) resignation, a 3) recall referendum, or 4) a punitive sentence handed by the Supreme Court in the form of impeachment and the removal of parliamentary privilege.
The PSUV caucus in the National Assembly voted on an urgent matter today, formally removing Maria Corina Machado from the National Assembly. They argued that by accepting Panama’s invitation to speak at the Organization of American States meeting last Friday, Maria Corina took on the charge of “alternate ambassador” of Panama, a country “hostile” to Venezuela according to Diosdado Cabello. Diosdado also pointed out that the penalty for “associating with external enemies of the state” is 20 to 30 years in jail.
Maria Corina is heading back to Venezuela tomorrow. Today, she said, “I will arrive tomorrow still a deputy because I have not committed any crime.”
How did we discover this coup? Thanks to the good conscience of officers, the youngest ones, generals, lieutenant colonels. They became alarmed and denounced that there had been a meeting calling for a coup. This captured group has direct links to the opposition, and they said that this week was going to be “decisive”. They spend all their time on that, a psychological war amongst themselves. Chaos in services, they were going to turn off Venezuela and here they were getting ready to come with this new situation. They thought that Venezuela has no way to defend herself and that we are still undergoing a coup. It’s too bad for their careers, they’ve lost them listening to the advice of those who want to destroy democracy.”
While Maduro didn’t give out the names of the alleged conspirators, El Mundo did, citing a source within the Venezuelan military. They are allegedly Brigadier General Jose Daniel Machillanda Diaz, Brigadier General Oswaldo Hernandez Sanchez, and Brigadier General Carlos Alberto Millan Yaguaracuto.
In Other News
Sometime last night (possibly as early as the evening), a fire started in El Avila, a prominent mountain that looks over Caracas. This is a picture of the fire:
The fire likely lead to a power outage that affected Caracas all morning. This morning, large sections of northern Caracas (La Candelaria, San Bernardino, Parque Carabobo, San Agustin del Norte, Sabana Grande, El Bosque and parts of La Florida) awoke without electricity. The Minister of Electrical Energy, Jesse Chacon, said:
[the fire] has affected two transmission lines belonging to our system: Lines 1 and 2, 230Kv, Tacoa-Boyaca. This has de-energized the Boyaca transmission substation, and the Punceres, Conde and Delicias substations.
The outage affected the Metro de Caracas, and there were lots of delays in this morning’s commute.
From 9:00 AM, at a Metro station:
People forced out of the subway by the outage onto the street on the Avenida Sucre in Catia:
Later in the day, Minister Chacon said:
At this time we have no doubt that this was an intentional fire set… to make people anxious, to attack, to damage (…) the majority of the population who fights with the force of the revolution, and those who belong to the opposition are equally affected by the terrorist actions of these desperate criminal groups.
The Minister did not offer any evidence to support his claim.
David Smolansky, the mayor of El Hatillo and one of the mayors targeted in the Supreme Court order to clean up the barricades, said that “we will not allow a coup to happen at the municipal level” in El Hatillo. He also said that the National Guard/National Police have not had to respond to any protests in El Hatillo in over a month, because the protests there “have been organized, peaceful and non-violent”. He also said:
Any authority, party official and most of all any Venezuelan who thinks or expresses him/herself differently from what Miraflores Palace [The presidential office] says is exposing themselves to be persecuted, repressed, to suffer in jail and possibly lose their life. We are exposed, but that does not mean that we will cede our principles and our values.
Daniel Ceballo’s removal from office and prison sentence were expected. Scarano’s trial last week was unprecedented – Ceballos’s today wasn’t. With Maria Corina Machado expected to arrive back in Venezuela tomorrow, it is almost a certainty that she will be arrested, probably upon her arrival at the Simon Bolivar International Airport. The new age of Venezuelan politics continues.