The Venezuelan National Assembly approved preliminary impeachment proceedings against Nicolás Maduro with 105 votes in favor (and 2 against), citing enough evidence linking him to acts of corruption regarding the Odebrecht scandal.
Although this is a step forward in the struggle against the dictatorship, there will not be immediate effects at a national level–the country’s legitimate Supreme Court (TSJ) is exiled in Bogotá, Colombia. Yet it will give further leverage to foreign governments to disavow Maduro as president of Venezuela; and if he is found guilty, he could be officially be labeled a criminal.
During Tuesday’s parliamentary session, the opposition congressmen denounced that the regime shut down the Internet to prevent live transmissions, while State Security forces prevented the media from entering the building.
Although Maduro’s regime, the chavista and illegitimate TSJ, as well as the illegal national prosecutor, Tarek William Saab, assured that the trial session “lacked legitimacy”, the 16 countries in the region that make up the Lima Group offered their full support to the National Assembly of Venezuela.
“This decision will not be recognized by the Government, but we must continue fulfilling our duty,” said congressman, Henry Ramos Allup.
Congressman Winston Flores told PanAm Post that the evidence against Nicolás Maduro “is sufficient”, adding that “this is a step forward, it represents progress in our continued struggle and resistance.” Flores said it is very likely that the authorities will do nothing, because a dictatorship rules Venezuela and there is no independence of powers.
“There is now another scenario, another international game with geopolitical positions where there is a legitimate Supreme Court (TSJ) recognized by different countries around the world; this is a fundamental step to achieve a transition, it is part of the struggle for democracy,” congressman Flores said.
“We know the regime will be in contempt of the National Assembly, also the illegitimate TSJ; we know that Maduro will not step down, but this is one step forward,” he said.
“We could not care less about any type of decision [the government] makes, because the only decision considered legitimate in Venezuela today, and that represents Venezuelans, is this National Assembly made up by us, the parliamentarians.”
“If the regime wants to take us to court, that is their problem; our problem is to continue fighting for the freedom of Venezuela,” Flores added.
After Tuesday’s vote, the legitimate Supreme Court in exile will continue with the investigations of corruption. It is a process that could lead to an international arrest warrant against the dictator of the South American country.
The judicial power, which was appointed by the National Assembly with an opposition majority, was never properly installed in Venezuela due to the persecution by the Nicolás Maduro regime. A situation that forced its members to go into exile and to establish a Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) abroad.
The TSJ in exile is not only recognized by the Organization of American States (OAS), but also has the support of the European Parliament.
Blanca Rosa Mármol, Magistrate Emeritus of the Supreme Court of Justice, explained to PanAm Post that according to the evidence presented by chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz (also in exile), the Venezuelan president committed the crimes of corruption and money laundering.
“This procedure should last about 30 days or so; once it is established that Maduro is guilty, and after he doesn’t show up at the hearings, an international arrest warrant will be issued that must be complied both by the Venezuelan authorities and countries around the world,” said Mármol.
What if Venezuela was a democracy?
José Vicente Haro, constitutional lawyer, explained to PanAm Post that according to the Venezuelan Constitution, the Supreme Court must apply the procedure established by the Penal Code.
“What this procedure establishes, first is that Nicolás Maduro would have the judicial, legal, political and constitutional obligation to step down from his position as president of the Republic,” he said.
Haro recalled the same thing happened with former President Carlos Andrés Pérez, who was prosecuted with an impeachment hearing and after Parliament approved it, he stepped down from his position.
“Maduro must step down, and in accordance with that same legal code would have to be barred from participate in elections for public office,” he said.
After the Supreme Court verifies whether or not the president is guilty, it is possible that other countries, affected by Maduro’s crimes linked to the Odebcrecht corruption plot, could conduct criminal proceedings against him as well.
The evidence against Maduro
At the hearing held last week at the Colombian Congress, the legitimate Attorney General of Venezuela, Luisa Ortega Díaz presented the evidence that would show that Maduro must be prosecuted.
Ortega explained in detail that Maduro received a large sum of money at Venezuela’s foreign ministry headquarters from the hands of the Mónica Moura and Joao Santana, creators of the presidential campaign of Hugo Chávez. In addition to this, Ortega said that Odebrecht also financed the presidential campaign of Nicolás Maduro in 2013.
Additionally, she produced the agreement signed between Brazil and Venezuela, which was signed by Maduro, was never reviewed by parliament– the president of the Assembly at the time was Cilia Flores, Maduro’s current wife.
Ortega also made reference to the construction of a second bridge over Lake Maracaibo that never took place, and for which Odebrecht received US$ 407 million.
She said the Prosecutor’s Office was able to verify that the regime commissioned to Odebrecht 13 projects that are currently at a standstill. Ortega also delivered a CD with the statements of the main witnesses of Odebrecht case gathered in Brazil.
“Maduro’s commitment to Odebrecht was such that on May 4, 2013, he approved a request to disburse money to Odebrecht,” she said.
Maduro’s priority was not alleviating the situation that Venezuela was living at the time, but to pay for Odebrecht unfinished and paralyzed projects,” Ortega Díaz said during the hearing.
She also delivered extracts from bank accounts that were used for the operations. “All these actions are considered crimes in our legal system,” Luisa Ortega repeated.
She concluded by requesting the TSJ to turn to Interpol to issue an international arrest warrant against Nicolás Maduro Moros. “I request that the Armed Forces carry out Nicolás Maduro’s detention and place him under the orders of a court. I request to seize all his assets and accounts (…) I hope that justice is served,” she said.