The National Assembly voted today to impeach Maduro over his alleged involvement in the Odebrecht corruption case. The Assembly voted 105-2 in favour of the motion. The only two deputies from the ruling PSUV party in attendance, Juan Marin and Ileana Medina, voted against the measure.
According to Venezuelan law, before a public official is brought to trial for some wrongdoing they must first be subjected to an antejuicio de merito [roughly, “merit pre-trial”], which is a special legal proceeding in which a court decides whether or not the official should stand trial. The process is similar to what English-speaking jurisdictions tend to call an impeachment.
In approving today’s measure, the National Assembly found that there is enough evidence linking Maduro to corruption to “proceed with a judicial trial”.
Maduro has been linked to the Odebrecht corruption scandal numerous times in the past few years. Most recently, former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz claimed earlier this year that Maduro demanded a $50 million dollar bribe from Odebrecht, the Brazilian construction giant, in 2013, in exchange for allowing it to continue to operate in the country.
Given the political context in Venezuela, today’s impeachment vote is unlikely to yield any concrete results, least of all Maduro’s removal from office. While Article 266(2) of the Constitution does give the National Assembly the power to impeach the president, the Maduro regime has effectively rendered the legislative branch dead in the water through years of legal and political outmaneuvering.
National Assembly deputy Henry Ramos Allup spoke to reporters after the vote, and addressed the symbolic nature of the impeachment by saying:
This decision is going to clash with reality, and it will not be followed by the government. But we must carry out our duty.
Impeachment Showcases Workings of Pseudo-State
Today’s vote follows two months of activity on what could be described as the Venezuelan pseudo-state: that is, individuals and institutions whose authority is legitimate according to the Constitution, but whose stance against Maduro has seen them formally removed from power and forced into exile.
On February 19, former attorney general Luisa Ortega Diaz–forced into exile in August of last year for speaking out against regime atrocities–requested that the legislature vote to impeach Maduro. That request was forwarded to the Supreme Court-in-Exile, which is made up of magistrates appointed by the National Assembly last year who have also fled the country due to regime persecution. On April 9, the Court-in-Exile approved Ortega Diaz’s request, and then forwarded the case to the National Assembly.
Because Maduro and the PSUV control the formal state–that is, the government institutions that operate day-to-day in Venezuela–the pseudo-state, legal legitimacy aside, is has little capacity to actuate its will.
Impeachment Vote Unlikely to Yield Results
After Venezuelan elected an opposition supermajority to the National Assembly in 2015, the Maduro regime moved quickly to neutralize the branch of government lest it exercise its powers to undermine Maduro’s rule.
That effort included the Supreme Court ruling in December 2016 that every single legislative act conducted by the National Assembly that year were null, as were all future ones. Having reduced the legislature to a non-entity, Maduro then moved to create his own legislative branch via the Constituent Assembly, which was elected in July 30 2017. The Constituent Assembly is now the de facto legislative branch in Venezuela.
Doctors, Patients Protest in Caracas As Healthcare System Crumbles
Doctors, patients, and other healthcare workers protested in several spots around Caracas today over the collapse of the Venezuelan healthcare system. The Universidad Central de Venezuela and its hospital, the Hospital Clinico Universitario, were ground zero for the demonstrations which sought to call attention to the plight of both healthcare workers and patients as they face chronic shortages of everything from chemotherapy drugs to rubber gloves.
Below, a short clip of a crowd of protesters outside of the Hospital Clinico Universitario:
At the Hospital Dr. Domingo Luciani in the El Llanito neighbourhood, patients and staff held signs and chanted slogans on the streets outside the facility. A nurse named Isabel Contreras told El Nacional:
We don’t have chlorine, soap or medicine. How much longer will this go on?
Contreras also said that she earns Bs. 360,000 per month, which at the current black market rate (Bs. 551,230.09/USD) equals 65 cents.
Healthcare workers also protested in the Las Salias municipality, which is located just south of Caracas. In the image below, a healthcare worker holds a sign that says “We don’t have supplies”, which lists over a dozen medicines and medical supplies:
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