CARACAS: An ousted Venezuelan lawmaker hit back at President Nicolas Maduro on Monday (Tuesday in Manila), accusing the government of desperation after she was effectively fired for raising the country’s deadly political crisis.
Maria Corina Machado has been placed under criminal investigation on the suspicion that she incited violence, terrorism and homicide by addressing a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS).
National Assembly president Diosdado Cabello said Machado forfeited her seat by speaking at the OAS meeting and that she now had lost her official privileges and could be arrested at any time.
“She stopped being a deputy,” said Cabello, who is considered the second-most powerful politician in Venezuela after Maduro.
“We are putting out in–structions that from this moment Mrs. Machado cannot enter as a deputy at least during this electoral period,” he warned.
But Machado, speaking in Lima, said the government’s action was a reflection of its “weakness and desperation,” and she vowed to continue her duties and disregard what she saw as illegitimate measures.
“I am a deputy of the National Assembly of Venezuela elected by the people of Venezuela and I will continue,” she said at a seminar on Latin American democracy, noting that the steps taken against her would not subdue the opposition.
“It will give us more strength to continue this fight,” she said.
The action in the government-dominated assembly and probe by prosecutors comes amid a broadening crackdown on opposition leaders who have supported a wave of street protests against Maduro’s leftist government.
The demonstrations have left 34 people dead since they started on February 4. Authorities said on Monday that the three latest victims included a soldier shot dead after protests in the west of the country.
Two mayors were arrested last week and a prominent oppo–sition leader has been jailed for more than a month for allegedly inciting violence, which the government regards as a conspiracy to overthrow Maduro.
Asked about the immediate consequences of the measures taken against lawmaker Machado, Cabello said: “She doesn’t have parliamentary immunity, she doesn’t have access to the assembly, she can be investigated directly for all the things that have been happening.”
“She can be arrested at any moment without previous notification of anybody,” he said.
Cabello added he based his action on an article in the Venezuelan Constitution sti–pulating that deputies “can- not accept or exercise public offices without losing their investiture, except in teaching, academic, accidental or sup-port activities.”
Venezuela’s neighbor Panama last week accredited Machado to its delegation at the Wa–shington-based OAS so she could address the regional bloc, which includes the United States as a member, on the situation in her homeland.