Venezuela's dissident state prosecutor expects to be fired; Protesters across the country block roads "against the dictatorship"

Venezuela's pro-government Supreme Court heard a petition on Tuesday to remove dissident state prosecutor Luisa Ortega, who was expecting the axe after alleging rights abuses and erosion of democracy under President Nicolas Maduro.

Ortega, the main challenger to Maduro from within the ruling socialist movement during three months of opposition protests, said she would not recognize legal proceedings against her by an "unconstitutional and illegitimate" Supreme Court. 

"We already know they're going to remove me today," said Ortega in a speech at her office, slamming what she said was a "spurious" case designed to silence her. 

"They've frozen my bank account, they've frozen my assets, and they've banned me from leaving the country. It appears that defending the constitution constitutes a crime," she said, waving a small blue book of the charter written under Maduro's predecessor and mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, in 1999. 

Speaking at her office in Caracas to applauding staff, Ortega said the case against her was rife with procedural errors and signs of collusion between the Supreme Court and the ruling party. She wryly remarked that the case was being handled with unusual speediness by Venezuela's infamously slow legal system. 

Earlier on Tuesday, the court's constitutional chamber said her designation of a vice prosecutor was "absolutely null" and instead named its own vice prosecutor. 

The court's appointee, Katherine Haringhton, was one of seven officials sanctioned by the United States in 2015 for alleged corruption and rights abuses. Ortega condemned the parallel appointment as illegitimate. 

In other news, protesters across the South American nation set up road blockades "against the dictatorship" on Tuesday afternoon. Some played dominoes and football in the streets, while others chanted slogans, waved banners saying "No More Dictatorship" and stood under the sun. 

"I'm blocking the road for a better future. We're doing this to stop the Constituent (Assembly) election," said lawyer Ritza Quintero, 32, protesting with a banner. "Even if we don't stop it, we're not going to recognize it."

 

 

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