The sacking of Venezuela’s attorney general, Luisa Ortega, by President Nicolas Maduro’s new Constituent Assembly has been condemned by the US and Latin American nations.
Ortega has been one of the vociferous critics of Maduro over the legality of the assembly, inaugurated on Friday to rewrite the country’s constitution, the AFP reported.
“The United States condemns (the) illegal removal” of Ortega, US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert tweeted, adding the move was aimed at tightening the “authoritarian dictatorship of (the) Maduro regime.”
Colombia, Chile, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, and Peru equally slammed the decision, made by the Constituent Assembly as its very first order of business a week after it was elected in a vote marred by violence and fraud allegations.
The assembly also said Ortega would face trial for “irregularities” from her time in office and was forbidden from leaving the country.
Ortega, who was barred by dozens of soldiers from entering her offices, refused to recognize her sacking, or the assembly’s swearing in of Tarek William Saab, the national ombudsman, in her place.
“I am not giving up, Venezuela is not giving up and will not give up against barbarity, illegality, hunger, darkness and death,” she said.
Ortega has been a thorn in Maduro’s side for months, breaking ranks with him over the legality of the Constituent Assembly.
One of the assembly’s most prominent members, Diosdado Cabello, said of the firing: “This is not a personal, political lynching, just carrying out the law.”
Ortega’s sacking had been widely expected. But its swiftness — and the fact it was a unanimous vote — stirred wide unease.
Maduro and his Socialist party have “completely taken hostage” Venezuela’s institutions through “an undemocratic mechanism that is utterly dictatorial,” the leader of the opposition-controlled legislature, Julio Borges, told reporters.
As Ortega’s firing was announced, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Brazil declared Venezuela was indefinitely suspended from the South American trading bloc Mercosur for its “rupture of the democratic order.”
The United States and the office of the head of the Organization of American States, Luis Almargo, endorsed the suspension.
“The countries of the region… must continue to tell the Venezuelan regime that in the Americas, there is no place for dictatorships or for the tyrants that lead them,” it said in a statement.
The international onslaught added to US sanctions imposed on Maduro after the Constituent Assembly’s election.