Santa Elena de Uairén, 25th March 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - On Monday Diosdado Cabello, president of the Venezuelan National Assembly, announced that right-wing opposition leader Maria Corina Machado would no longer serve as an assembly deputy.
He cited articles 149 and 191 of the Venezuelan constitution, which indicate that public officials may not accept employment, special honors, or reimbursement from foreign governments without the authorization of parliament.
On Friday, during a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, Machado was offered Panama’s seat to testify on ongoing unrest in Venezuela.
Cabello insists that by accepting the seat and making declarations as a representative of the Panamanian government, Machado forfeited her right as assembly member.
He pointed to a document signed by the Panamanian ambassador designating Machado as an alternate representative of the republic, saying that the document is still valid and Machado has legally held the title since March 20th.
Earlier this month Venezuela severed diplomatic ties and froze economic relations with Panama, after Panama repeatedly urged the OAS to intervene in Venezuela “on the behalf of democracy”.
Machado is well-known as an outspoken leader of the far-right. In 2002, she signed the manifesto of a short-lived coup that temporarily ousted then president Hugo Chavez. When the coup was overthrown and Chavez returned to power, Machado claimed she had signed the decree by accident during a visit to the presidential palace on the day of the coup, thinking it was a sign-in sheet for guests.
In response to Cabello's accusation, Machado tweeted that it was a misunderstanding, and that Panama had “accidentally appointed her to the position.”
Insisting she still had a legal right as house member, Machado said yesterday, “I know well my duties and my rights. To all Venezuelans I say I will continue fighting and working as a member of the National Assembly. To Mr. Cabello I say he should read the constitution. The chief of the assembly has no right to dismiss a member. A parliamentarian may only be dismissed by death, departure, a definitive criminal sentence or referendum, and that is not the case here.”
Incidentally, Machado has been under investigation since early last week for her role in recent violent protests.
Though pro-government legislators presented alleged evidence against her, Machado could not be charged. As a standing member of the National Assembly, she enjoyed legal immunity.
Yesterday the Minister of Penitentiary Services, Iris Varela, remarked that by accepting Panama’s offer, Machado lost the parliamentary immunity reserved for house members and may now be tried for the charges pending against her. Varela cited “crimes against the homeland” and “crimes against humanity” among those charges.
This is not the first time Machado has been under investigation. Before running as an assembly member, she was founding president of the right-wing political organization, Súmate. Súmate was on trial in 2005 and 2006 for using funds from the U.S. Congress’s National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to allegedly promote civil unrest, and for receiving hundreds of thousands of dollars from unknown donors without declaring the foreign deposits to the Commission of Currency Administration (CADIVI), respectively.
She has long been criticized by the Venezuelan government as being a tool for the U.S. agenda in Venezuela, most notably after meeting with George W. Bush in the Oval Office in 2005.
After yesterday's events Machado tweeted from Peru that she planned to fly directly back to Venezuela to defend her parliamentary status. “We will fight until we win, she said. "The brutal regime of Nicolas Maduro believed that with this repression they would frighten us… they don’t know me.”