This morning, the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia (TSJ), Venezuela’s top court, swore-in Katherine Harrington as deputy attorney general in an unconstitutional move that is already threatening to tear the Venezuelan state in two.
Just yesterday, the National Assembly ratified the appointment of Rafael Gonzalez to the same position in accordance with Venezuelan law. Today’s move by the TSJ means that, at least in name, Venezuela currently has two deputy attorney generals.
In appointing Harrington, the TSJ also “annulled” Rafael Gonzalez’s appointment yesterday, a move that is also outside of Venezuelan law.
Today’s developments have set up the possibility of Venezuela having two sets of leadership atop the Public Ministry: one sanctioned by the opposition via the National Assembly, and the other sanctioned by the regime through the TSJ.
TSJ To Decide in Five Days if AG Ortega Diaz is Impeached
Harrington’s appointment to the position of deputy attorney general is all the more important given the fact that the TSJ will decide in five days if it will impeach attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz. An impeachment could potentially result in Harrington ascending to the top of the Public Ministry.
The TSJ’s announcement came after a short hearing in which the top court heard arguments in favour for Ortega Diaz’s impeachment.
The main thrust of the assault against Ortega Diaz came from PSUV National Assembly Pedro Carreño, who argued that the attorney general should be impeached because “she sold her soul to the devil”. Carreño’s comments are presumably in reference to Ortega Diaz’s turn against chavismo in recent months.
People’s Defender Tarek William Saab and Comptroller General Manuel Galindo also spoke in favour of impeachment, each arguing that the attorney general was no longer fit to conduct her duties.
Ortega Diaz did not attend this morning’s hearing, but a public defender did argue unsuccessfully on her behalf.
Harrington Sanctioned By the U.S. in 2015
Katherine Harrington was sanctioned by the U.S. Department of the Treasury in September of 2015 over her alleged involved in human rights abuses in Venezuela. Harrington was one of seven Venezuelan individuals sanctioned on that occasion.
The sanctions froze all of Harrington’s assets in the United States, and banned her from travelling to the country.
Ortega Diaz: “I Know I Will Be Removed” from Office
Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz reacted to today’s proceedings at the TSJ, calling them “a grotesque coup d’etat” against the Venezuelan state and suggesting that the decision to remove her from her office had already been made.
I didn’t attend [the hearing]. I will not participate in a circus that has stained our history with shame and pain, and one whose decision has already been made (…) We already know that my removal [from office] began today.
Ortega Diaz also said that as long as she was attorney general, she would not recognize Katherine Harrington as her immediate subordinate.
Opposition Stages Trancazo
Starting at noon today, opposition supporters throughout the country launched a trancazo nacional [roughly, “national lockdown”], a form of protest that aims to temporarily paralyze all activity in the country. Today’s trancazo was scheduled to last from noon until 6:00 PM.
The video below shows protesters in the Bello Campo area of Caracas at around 5:00 PM this afternoon:
The image below shows the effects of the trancazo on the Las Americas avenue in the city of Merida, Merida state:
Regime Militias Attack Protesters, Hospital in Caracas
Regime militias known locally as colectivos armados [literally “armed groups”] were active in the city today. The image below shows a colectivo in the neighbourhood of the Montalban in Caracas. Note that the men are not uniformed, and that some of them are armed:
The colectivo in Montalban opened fire on protesters in the area shortly after the noon hour, wounding a man in the foot:
In the video below, a colectivo drives through a road in Montalban while gunshots pierce the air:
The dramatic video below shows a colectivo standing at an intersection in the Vista Alegre neighbourhood of Caracas. It’s not clear if the colectivo is attempting to block traffic through the area, or if they’re clearing a barricade left earlier by protesters.
At the 0:44 mark, one of the colectivo members runs towards the woman who is recording the video, causing the woman to flee in panic. Later in the video, a single gunshot can be heard:
Colectivos also shattered the doors the Hospital de Clinicas Caracas, a medical in the San Bernardino neighbourhood of the city.
Below, CCTV footage of the attack as it happened:
The colectivo also threw what appeared to be some kind of explosive device at the entrance of the hospital:
Below, footage of the damage caused by the colectivos:
Below, an image showing the spot where three bullets impacted the hospital:
The video below allegedly shows a colectivo attacking a residential complex in the El Paraiso neighbourhood of Caracas at approximately 6:40 PM:
Protester Killed in Tachira State
A 25-year-old man named Engelberth Moncada was killed while protesting against the Maduro government today in the Tariba municipality of Tachira state.
Ricarco Hernandez, the mayor of a town in the area called Cardenas, said that Moncada was killed after being hit by a tear gas canister fired by a National Guard soldier.
Moncada is the 90th person to be killed in the anti-regime protests since they began on April 1.
Airplane Registered to VP’s Office Crashes Off Nueva Esparta
A private jet registered to the office of the vice president crashed off the coast of Nueva Esparta state this afternoon with nine individuals on board. The airplane had the registration number YV2896.
The airplane appears to have suffered from mechanical failure.
The names of the individuals have yet to be released, but vice president Tarek El Aissami was not on board.
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