Maria Corina Machado was formally charged today with conspiracy after she was accused earlier this year of plotting to kill Maduro. The charges bring a maximum sentence of 16 years in jail.
Maria Corina answered a summons earlier in the day to appear in a Caracas courthouse. Once there, she was charged and released until the start of her trial. Maria Corina made spoke at length with the Venezuelan media after exiting the courtroom, saying:
I’ve just been charged with the crime of conspiracy. This is a crime that carries a maximum sentence of 16 years in jail. Every piece of evidence – every single piece – is false, and I’ve always rejected them as such.
I want to tell Venezuelans that we must have an enormous amount of trust in ourselves. I am not afraid. Venezuela continues to move forward towards a transition to democracy. The next step is a civil struggle; firm, passionate and conscientious. Our only option is to fight for democracy and freedom.
She also made a call to Maduro to step down from power so that the country might move forward from a catastrophic year:
I want to tell Maduro and his government that they can make a contribution to Venezuela and to peace by resigning (…) so that Venezuela can move towards a transitional path to democracy.
Maria Corina said that she is not allowed to speak on the details of charges, and that the judge Katherine Harington did not set a trial start date.
Earlier this year, an analysis of Gmail account data released by Google concluded that the e-mails used to accuse one of the other alleged conspirators were falsified.
The scene outside the Caracas courthouse in which Maria Corina was charged was chaotic this morning. Below, some pictures from the scene earlier today:
The sign below reads: “Deputy Maria Corina [“is” or “be”] Brave”
Reaction to the Charges Pour In
The adjunct national coordinator of the Voluntad Popular party, Freddy Guevara, spoke on the charges filed against Maria Corina Machado today, saying:
A strong government does not persecute. The intention of this weak government is to silence anyone who can put up a fight, and Maria Corina Machado is a voice of hope and of our struggle. They want to silence her, but they don’t have all of the elements necessary to put her in jail.
The Human Rights Watch executive director for Latin America, Jose Miguel Vivanco, said:
It’s very difficult to imagine that the case against Machado for her alleged participation in a plan to assassinate the president is nothing more than a farce.
President Maduro called her “a murderer” and the President of the National Assembly [Diosdado Cabello] accused her of deleting what appear to be the only e-mails the authorities claim to hold as evidence.
Vivanco also stated that he believes Venezuela is a country “without independent justice”, which effectively means that Maria Corina is already presumed by the legal system to be guilty.
Maduro also indirectly referenced the charges today at an event for farmers. Maduro said:
When justice comes, they come out saying, “I didn’t do it!”. They’re very brave when it comes to organizing assassinations, but when justice acts they either flee to Miami or they say that they’re victims (…) Their so-called leader [Leopoldo Lopez] ended up amounting to nothing. Let them do politics, let them present themselves as a better alternative, as being better able to run this country instead of always doing it harm.
Venezuela is Most Corrupt Country in Latin America
A report by Transparency International, an NGO that works to promote transparency in the name of fighting corruption, released it’s 2014 Corruption Perceptions Index. According to the Index, Venezuela is tied with Haiti as the most corrupt country in the Western hemisphere.
Venezuela is tied in the 161st spot (out of 175) with Haiti, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, and Yemen.