Merida, May 8, 2019 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Constituent Assembly (ANC) has revoked the parliamentary immunity of seven opposition deputies, opening the way for criminal prosecution for their purported role in last week’s failed coup d’etat.
The deputies, who sit in the country’s National Assembly (AN) since 2015, are being accused of treason, conspiracy, civil rebellion, usurpation of responsibilities, criminal association, public instigation to disobey the laws, and “continued hatred” by Venezuela’s Supreme Court, following a ruling on Tuesday. The ruling was based on articles 128, 132, 143, 145, 163, 213 and 285 of Venezuela’s Criminal Code, as well as article 37 of the Law against Organised Crime and Terrorist Financing.
The decision to lift their immunity was taken by the ANC following a request from the Court. According to the Venezuelan Constitution, the ANC supersedes other institutions of state and has the legal power to strip parliamentary immunity. At the time of writing none of the lawmakers have been taken into custody.
On April 30, National Assembly President Juan Guaido together with fugitive opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez attempted to instigate a military uprising to remove President Nicolas Maduro. The putsch failed after it became apparent that the men did not command the requisite civilian and military support, a fact Guaido later recognized in an interview with the Washington Post. Five citizens died as a result of the day’s altercations, which left dozens injured, including three police officers and five military officials.
Among those deputies facing charges over their alleged role in the coup attempt are two high profile members of the conservative Democratic Action party, National Assembly Vice President Edgar Zambrano (Lara State) and former National Assembly President and party head Henry Ramos Allup (Capital District).
Parliamentary immunity from prosecution has also been revoked for Americo de Grazia (Bolivar State) and Marianela Magallanes Lopez (Aragua State) from the Causa R party, Popular Will legislator Luis Florido (Lara State), Alianza Bravo Pueblo President Richard Blanco (Capital District), and Venezuelan Progressive Movement Secretary General Simon Calzadilla (Aragua State).
Many of the lawmakers, including Zambrano, took part in a Tuesday session of the National Assembly, which rejected the move, claiming that the Supreme Court and ANC are “usurping” their responsibilities. The opposition-led legislature has been in contempt of court since 2016 when it disobeyed a Supreme Court ruling ordering the dismissal of three deputies under investigation for electoral fraud.
Magallanes Lopez did not attend the AN session, having fled to the the residence of the Italian Ambassador in Caracas. She is applying for Italian citizenship.
Allup, on the other hand, made clear that he has no plans to flee the charges.
“I will [not] take refuge in an embassy, nor will I leave the country,” he told press.
Photographic and video evidence places Allup and Zambrano, de Grazia and Blanco at the Altamira Overpass on April 30 actively supporting Guaido and Lopez. Allup was caught on camera trying to convince soldiers to join the attempted uprising.
— Efecto Cocuyo (@EfectoCocuyo) April 30, 2019
Guaido, who swore himself in as “interim president” on January 23, described the move by the ANC as “persecution.” The also president of the AN had his own parliamentary immunity revoked in April and is the subject of various criminal investigations. No warrant has yet been issued for his arrest.
Speaking from the ANC, the body's president, Diosdado Cabello, urged the attorney general to continue criminal procedures against all of those involved, responding to grassroots calls for justice.
“Justice will be served, sooner or later, we shouldn’t lose hope,” the Socialist Party number two stated.
Cabello also added his voice to calls for Leopoldo Lopez to face new charges for his role in the putch.
“The sentence against Leopoldo Lopez should be increased as he escaped and participated in the coup d’état. This sentence must be revised with the new crimes he committed,” Cabello explained.
Lopez is currently a “guest” at the Spanish Ambassador’s residence in Caracas after having violated his condition of home arrest to participate in last week’s attempted coup. The former mayor was serving out a 13 year sentence for his role in the 2014 street violence, which left 43 people dead. Following his April 30 activities, a new arrest warrant was issued against him on May 3.