Former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz was in Costa Rica today where she met with government officials there, made more accusations against Maduro, and told reporters that her life was in imminent danger.
In what is her second direct accusation against Maduro, Ortega Diaz said that the president personally stole “eight to ten million dollars in cash” from the national treasury through a corrupt scheme that involved a suitcase company. According to Ortega Diaz, Maduro used the money as payment to a fake company in order to gain clandestine access to the cash.
[Maduro and his accomplices] used as a front a Venezuelan company called Contextus Corporate Communications, which is owned by Monica Ortigoza Villasmil, who is the wife of Alejandro Escarra Gil, who is in turn the bother of Constituent Assembly member Hermann Escarra. He [Escarra] is being investigated [in connection to this case] in the United States.
Aside from being a member of the Constituent Assembly, Hermann Escarra is a lawyer and high profile chavista who makes frequent appearances in Venezuelan media to defend the Maduro regime’s actions. Escarra became the target of financial and travel sanctions from the United States Department of the Treasury earlier this month for his role in the perpetuation of the Maduro regime.
Ortega Diaz was attorney general from 2007 until August 5 of this year. She was removed from her position by the Constituent Assembly after she began to speak out against the Maduro regime’s systemic human rights abuses in late March. She fled Venezuela on August 19, and has since begun to unveil evidence of massive corruption by regime officials.
Ortega Diaz: Maduro Regime Seeking to “End My Life”
Turning to the matter of her personal safety, Ortega Diaz said that she was certain that the Maduro regime had hired assassins to kill her. While she did not provide any details on the matter, Ortega Diaz said:
I have information that the persecution against me continues, and that the government has hired hitmen to end my life.
Ortega Diaz also said that returning to Venezuela could not be an option for her so long as chavista forces were in power:
I cannot go back to Venezuela. If I go back, they’ll put a fuchsia uniform [a women’s prison uniform] on me and I will be put in prison. And I will be disappeared, and tortured, and I don’t know what else they’ll do to me.
Agents from the regime’s political police, the SEBIN, raided Ortega Diaz’s home on August 16. Her husband, former PSUV National Assembly deputy German Ferrer, became the target of an arrest warrant issued by the country’s Supreme Court on August 17.
Ortega Diaz stressed her point today by saying:
If, as attorney general, [the regime] attacked the Public Ministry with bayonets drawn, raided my home twice, stole my belongings, persecuted my family and Public Ministry workers that had nothing to do with me and who were only doing their jobs, then returning to the country would mean my death.
54% of Venezuelan Children Suffering From “Some Level of Nutritional Deficiency”
According to Caritas Internationalis, the ongoing food crisis is taking a heavily toll on Venezuela’s children, with as many as 54% of them suffering from “some level of nutritional deficiency”. The figure comes from the organization’s humanitarian director, Suzanna Tkalec.
Tkalec was on a fact-finding mission in Venezuela on behalf of the organization in July, and she told El Estimulo that the evidence that she found on her trip pointed to the fact that “the majority of people do not have adequate access to food.”
Tkalec also highlighted a particularly grim aspect of the crisis: the fact that while there may sometimes be food in supermarkets, it is sold at such high prices that most people cannot afford to buy it. She explained:
In order to buy the basic amount of food for the month you would need twelve [minimum wage] salaries. There is food in the stores, but the prices are inaccessible for the immense majority. It’s common to see people in the streets of Caracas rummaging through garbage looking for something to eat.
The Maduro regime has consistently denied that there is a food crisis in Venezuela. Most recently, Maduro claimed during a televised interview on August 20 that “there has not been a lack of medicine or food” in Venezuela during his tenure in office.
Constituent Assembly Promises Tough “Hate Laws” For Media
Delcy Rodriguez, the president of the Constituent Assembly, said yesterday that the body would severely punish media outlets that engaged in the broadcasting of “messages of hate and intolerance”.
Speaking from the Constituent Assembly yesterday, Rodriguez said:
Those media outlets, in their different ways, that promote messages of hate, intolerance, discrimination and fascism will face harsh sanctions.
While it is not clear exactly what type of sanctions outlets will face or what exactly constitutes offending speech, regime critics are concerned that the announcement constitutes a threat to the country’s media outlets to not criticize the Maduro regime.
Last week, the regime blocked two Colombian television networks from Venezuelan airwaves over their ongoing coverage of former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz’s allegations against Maduro and other high-ranking PSUV officials. Over the weekend, the regime also shut down two radio stations that occasionally broadcast programs that were critical of Maduro and his administration.
DA Wants Life in Prison for Flores Cousins
The New York district attorney in charge of the case against Efrain and Francisco Lopez has asked the court to give the two men life in prison after the pair were found guilty earlier this year of attempting to smuggle cocaine into the United States. The Flores’ sentencing hearing is set for the week of September 11.
The defense reacted by calling the request for a life sentence “disproportionate” to the severity of the crime the two men committed.
Efrain and Francisco are the nephews of first lady Cilia Flores. The pair were arrested in Haiti in November of 2015 while attempting to smuggle 800 kilograms of cocaine into the United States. Efrain later confessed to DEA agents that the two wanted to smuggle the drugs in order to make some money for themselves.
The Maduro regime has been largely silent on the case. In July of last year, Cilia Flores accused the United States of “kidnapping” her nephews without making reference to the allegations or the pair’s confession.
In New Allegations, Cousins Also Linked to Two Murders
The district attorney’s office also linked Efrain and Francisco with the murders of two unnamed individuals in Venezuela, according to pre-sentencing papers provided to the court. According to Diario Las Americas, the allegation comes from the fact that among the evidence collected from the two men were pictures of dismembered bodies, as well as other information suggesting that at least one of the deceased was kill over an unpaid debt.
Efrain and Francisco were never charged with murder, and as a result the allegations made against them by the district attorney’s office are unproven.
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