Venezuela government seeks dissident prosecutor’s exit

CARACAS, (Reuters) – A lawmaker acting on behalf of Venezuela’s government sought yesterday to start court proceedings to dismiss the chief state prosecutor, who has broken with socialist President Nicolas Maduro during opposition protests.

The prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, 59, a former ally of Maduro, has accused security forces of excessive violence, in the highest-profile dissent from within government ranks since anti-government unrest began in April killing at least 72 people.

Ortega also has opposed decisions by the pro-Maduro Supreme Court and National Election Council and said the president’s plan for a new congress to rewrite the constitution threatens democracy and late leader Hugo Chavez’s legacy. That has led to a plethora of counter-accusations by officials against her, ranging from insanity to promoting “terrorist” violence.

Lawmaker Pedro Carreno formally petitioned the Supreme Court on Friday to declare her guilty of “grave offense,” meaning she could be dismissed.

“This lady stopped being the chief prosecutor of the republic and turned into a right-wing political activist,” he said, also requesting Ortega have her property confiscated and be prohibited from leaving the country.

Demonstrations against Maduro have raged since early April, often turning violent as masked protesters with rocks and Molotov cocktails face off against security forces using teargas and water cannons.

The fatalities, mainly from gunshots, have included supporters of both sides, bystanders and security officials. The latest victim on Friday was Nelson Arevalo, 22, killed in a protest in the city of Barquisimeto, authorities said. Opposition sources said he was shot in the neck.

Protesters are seeking elections to end socialist rule in the OPEC nation of 30 million people, plus solutions to a brutal economic crisis, freedom for hundreds of jailed activists, and autonomy for the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Maduro, the 54-year-old former bus driver and self-declared “son” of Chavez, says his foes are seeking a violent coup against him, with U.S. support.

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