Venezuela’s Supreme Court Admits Legal Request to Impeach Attorney General

The Supreme Court has officially accepted a legal request filed by Venezuelan legislator Pedro Carreño, asking the body to assess the possibility of bringing impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Luisa Ortega.

By Rachael Boothroyd-Rojas
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Legislator for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Pedro Carreño, filed the challenge against Ortega last Friday. (AVN)
Legislator for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, Pedro Carreño, filed the challenge against Ortega last Friday. (AVN)

Caracas, June 20, 2017 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s Supreme Court has officially accepted a legal request filed by Chavista legislator Pedro Carreño, asking the body to assess the possibility of bringing impeachment proceedings against Attorney General Luisa Ortega. 

The motion was submitted to the top court by socialist lawmaker Carreño last Friday, who claimed that Ortega may have broken the law in recent weeks by overstep and ignoring Supreme Court decisions.  

“There are [Supreme Court] decisions and she does not recognize them, there are grounds for her to be prosecuted,” he told press.  

On Tuesday the Supreme Court confirmed that that it would admit Carreño’s motion for impeachment against the attorney general, citing possible violations of articles in the Constitution, the Citizens’ Power Law and the Law of the Public Prosecution. 

The attorney general has been locked in a series of legal disputes with the Supreme Court since she broke with the leftist administration of Nicolas Maduro in early April, accusing his government of violating the constitution’s separation of powers.  

Last week, the chief prosecutor filed several lawsuits against the government and TSJ magistrates, including requests for the body to remove thirty-three of its judges and to allow the prosecution of eight justices sitting on its constitutional tribunal.  

According to Ortega, the 33 judges were appointed via an “irregular process” by the outgoing Chavista National Assembly at the end of 2015, while the eight constitutional judges should be tried for “conspiring against the Republican government of the nation”. The tribunal has ruled on several occasions in favour of the executive branch against the opposition-led National Assembly since the two became deadlocked in January 2016. 

Both motions were thrown out by the top court, which said that Ortega had failed to identify a “grave fault” committed by the judges or present a convincing legal basis for her case.   

National Ombudsman William Tarek Saab also delivered a blow to Ortega last Friday after he made public a document signed by the attorney general in January 2016, confirming that she had approved the selection of the thirty-three judges whose removal she is now demanding. Ortega claimed last week that she had not been present at meetings held by the Citizens’ Power branch of government to discuss the justices’ selection and had refused to sign off on their approval in protest.  

Last Thursday the attorney general also issued her third legal challenge to the government’s initiative to rewrite the constitution via a National Constituent Assembly (ANC). The ANC was put forward by President Nicolas Maduro on May 1 as a path towards national reconciliation after deadly anti-government protests erupted at the beginning of April. Eighty-four people have died in the violence to date. 

But the attorney general has argued that the move is unconstitutional, and that an initial referendum must be carried out in order for the ANC to proceed. The TSJ ruled against her in early June, stating that no such referendum was required by the constitution.   

Since breaking with the government, former Chavista Ortega has earned ardent support from the country’s opposition sectors, which vowed Tuesday to back Ortega against any possible impeachment process.

“The Supreme Court can decide what it wants but the only way of removing the attorney general is if it is authorized by the National Assembly, and we won’t do it,” said National Assembly Vice-president Freddy Guevara on Twitter. 

President Nicolas Maduro also intervened in the heated institutional debate over the weekend, confirming that the Attorney General’s office was one of the only three groups that had refused to meet with the presidential commission tasked with organizing the ANC. The other two groups are the right-wing opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), and Venezuela’s largest business lobby, Fedecamaras.  

A rally outside the chief prosecutor’s office in support of Ortega scheduled for this Monday was called off after being outnumbered by a pro-government march in the same area.