Venezuela’s controversial constituent assembly has unanimously voted to put opposition leaders on trial for treason.
It said it would pursue those it accuses of supporting US economic sanctions against Venezuela.
The US approved the measures last week in response to what it called the “dictatorship” of President Nicolás Maduro.
Nicolás Maduro has accused the US of trying to cripple Venezuela’s economy amid an ongoing economic crisis.
On August 25, President Donald Trump signed an executive order to ban trade in Venezuelan debt or the sale of bonds from its state oil company.
The president’s reasons included “serious abuses of human rights” as well as the creation of the “illegitimate” constituent assembly, which the US accuses of usurping the democratically elected parliament.
The constituent assembly, which was convened by President Nicolás Maduro and is made up of government supporters, has been condemned by international leaders as unconstitutional.
On August 29, members of the assembly unanimously approved a decree calling for the investigation of “traitors” who supported the economic sanctions.
During the three-hour session, they took turns denouncing those who have been critical of the government in ever more colorful language.
Among those they attacked for allegedly being “engaged in the promotion of these immoral actions against the interests of the Venezuelan people” were not only members of opposition parties but also former supporters of the socialist government.
The sacked chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who over the past months has become one of the most vocal critics of the government, came in for particular vitriol.
Constituent assembly member Iris Varela called Luisa Ortega “scum”. She also said that Luisa Ortega “crawled like a worm” and “sold her homeland for a few dollars she stole from this country”.
Luisa Ortega was fired by the constituent assembly in its first session earlier this month and replaced by a loyal government supporter, Tarek William Saab.
She has since traveled to a number of Latin American countries denouncing alleged government corruption in Venezuela.
The head of the opposition-controlled parliament, Julio Borges, was named as “one of the real enemies of Venezuela” for asking US bank Goldman Sachs to stop buying Venezuelan bonds.
Julio Borges reacted by saying that it was time the government stopped looking for others to blame for Venezuela’s economic and political crisis.
“The only one responsible is Maduro and it’s time he takes a look in the mirror and accepts he has ruined Venezuela,” Julio Borges told reporters.
Venezuela’s new constituent assembly has overwhelmingly voted in favor of assuming the powers of the opposition-led parliament.
However, parliament has rejected the move. President Nicolas Maduro says the new assembly will end political unrest, but many say it is a slide towards dictatorship.
Meanwhile Colombia says Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz has arrived in the capital Bogota.
Luisa Ortega Diaz said she feared for her life after being dismissed by the controversial assembly.
Once a staunch supporter of Nicolas Maduro, Luisa Ortega had become a strong critic of the president’s socialist government in recent months.
The former chief prosecutor’s whereabouts had been unknown following her dismissal on August 5.
On August 18, Luisa Ortega told a regional conference via videolink that she had evidence that President Maduro was embroiled in a corruption scandal involving the Brazilian construction company, Odebrecht.
Odebrecht has admitted paying bribes to win contracts in 12 countries, though no Venezuelans have been named.
Venezuela’s government websites have been hacked in an operation targeting the “dictatorship” of President Nicolás Maduro.
Calling itself “The Binary Guardians”, the hacking group posted messages appearing to support the actions of a group of armed civilians who attacked a military base in the central city of Valencia on August 6.
Meanwhile, President Maduro’s supporters marched in the capital Caracas.
They called for an end to months of opposition protests and unrest.
The hacked sites included the Venezuelan government, the National Electoral Council and the Venezuelan navy.
A message on the main government site made reference to “Operation David”, which Venezuelan media had reported was the codename of the attack in Valencia.
“This dictatorship has its days numbered,” the message added.
The government said it had repelled the attack in Valencia, which was carried out by a group of armed civilians led by a military deserter.
A search was under way for 10 men who escaped with weapons after the attack, President Maduro said.
The assault in the north-western city of Valencia was carried out by 20 people, he said. Two were killed, one was injured and seven were arrested.
Earlier, a video posted on social media showed uniformed men saying they were rising against a “murderous tyranny”.
On state TV, Niclas Maduro congratulated the army for its “immediate reaction” in putting down the attack on August 6, saying they had earned his “admiration.”
The president called the incident a “terrorist attack” carried out by “mercenaries”, and said the security forces were actively searching for those who had escaped.
“We’ll get them,” Nicolas Maduro vowed.
The government said that those arrested included a first lieutenant who had deserted. It said the others were civilians wearing uniforms.
President Maduro said the group had been backed by anti-government leaders based in the US and Colombia.
In August 6 video, a rebel leader who identified himself as Juan Caguaripano, said that his group – which he called the 41st Brigade – was taking a stand against the “murderous tyranny of President Nicolás Maduro”.
“This is not a coup but a civic and military action to re-establish constitutional order.”
Violent demonstrations began in April and have spread across Venezuela which, despite being oil-rich, is experiencing severe shortages of food and medicines, as well as inflation in excess of 700%.
The incident in Valencia came the day after the first session of the newly inaugurated Constituent Assembly, seen by the opposition as a way for the left-wing president to cling to power.
Nicolas Maduro has repeatedly said that the new body will bring peace to Venezuela.
The Constituent Assembly has the ability to rewrite the constitution and could override the opposition-controlled parliament, the National Assembly.
Venezuela’s chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz says she was dismissed by the new constituent assembly because the government wanted to stop her investigations into alleged corruption and human rights abuses.
Luisa Ortega, a supporter turned critic of President Nicolás Maduro, has rejected her dismissal.
She will face trial for “serious misconduct”, the Supreme Court says.
Meanwhile, one of the opposition leaders, Leopoldo Lopez, has been returned from jail to house arrest.
Leopoldo López was taken from his home on August 1 and spent four days in a military jail.
South American regional bloc Mercosur has suspended Venezuela “indefinitely”, having previously placed it under a temporary ban. It says the country will not be re-admitted until the constituent assembly is scrapped and all political prisoners are released.
Another opponent of the government, Antonio Ledezma, is also back under house arrest after three days in jail last week.
Antinio Ledezma and Leopoldo Lopez had encouraged protests against the constituent assembly, which is dominated by government supporters.
In its first session on August 5, the assembly unanimously voted to remove Luisa Ortega from her post.
She was prevented from entering her office in Caracas by dozens of National Guard officers in riot gear, and left on a motorbike amid chaotic scenes.
In a statement released by the public prosecutor’s office, Luisa Ortega said President Maduro’s government was leading a “coup against the constitution”.
“I do not recognize the decision,” she said of her dismissal.
“[This is] just a tiny example of what’s coming for everyone that dares to oppose this totalitarian form of ruling.”
Venezuela’s Supreme Court, loyal to Nicolas Maduro, did not give details of the accusations against Luisa Ortega.
Luisa Ortega, who broke ranks with the government in March, had opposed the assembly’s inauguration on August 4, citing allegations of voting fraud.
Tarek William Saab, a supporter of President Nicolas Maduro, has been sworn in as her replacement.
Luisa Ortega’s removal was widely expected but the fact that it was decided on the first working day of the assembly suggested that the new body could take aggressive measures against President Maduro’s critics, correspondents say.
Mexico, Peru and Colombia have condemned Luisa Ortega’s dismissal.
President Maduro says the constituent assembly is needed to bring peace after months of protests sparked by severe economic hardship.
However, the opposition says it is a way for the president to cling to power.
The constituent assembly has the ability to rewrite the constitution, and could override the opposition-controlled parliament, the National Assembly.
Julio Borges, speaker of the National Assembly, said Luisa Ortega’s removal was illegal and showed that the country’s institutions had been “taken hostage by only one hand, only one political party” through “an undemocratic mechanism that is utterly dictatorial.”
Despite being oil-rich, Venezuela is experiencing severe shortages of food and medicines, as well as inflation in excess of 700%. Violent demonstrations since April have left more than 100 people dead.
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