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Venezuela: Axed prosecutor offered asylum in Colombia

August 22, 2017

Venezuela's former top prosecutor Luisa Ortega arrived in Colombia after fleeing her home country. One of the highest profile critics of the President Maduro's leadership, she has been charged with corruption.

Venezuela | abgesetzte Generalstaatsanwältin Luisa Ortega Diaz
Image: Reuters/U. Marcelino

The Colombian government on Monday raised already high tension with Venezuela by offering asylum and government protection to former chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega.

"Luisa Ortega is under the protection of the Colombian government," Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos, posted on Twitter. "If she asks for asylum, we will grant it to her."

Ortega, once a loyalist of Venezuela's socialist regime, broke ranks with President Nicolas Maduro over the government's deadly crackdown against opposition protestors, as well as alleged corruption by members of his inner circle.

Read more: What is going on in Venezuela?

Last month, Venezuela's new constitutional authority, dominated by allies of Maduro, voted to remove Ortega from her post. The ouster came following a decision from the pro-government Supreme Court to charge Ortega with alleged misconduct during her time as the country's top prosecutor. She has dismissed the charges against her as "political persecution."

Ortega reportedly arrived in Colombia with her husband on Friday, German Ferrer, after he was accused by Venezuelan authorities of running an extortion ring out of the state prosecutor's office. The two had been in hiding until that time, although they reportedly arrived in Bogota on a private flight from the Dutch Caribbean island of Aruba.

Colombia-Venezuela relations on the precipice

On taking office in 2010, Colombia's Santos hailed his friendship with Venezuela's then-socialist leader, Hugo Chavez, Maduro's late mentor and predecessor.

However, as Venezuela descended into an ever-worsening political and economic crisis under the current socialist guard, Santos joined a host of international leaders in criticizing Maduro's unsound economic policies and denouncing his violent means of clinging to power.

The Colombian president openly back the United State's sanctions against Maduro and his allies and warned his Venezuelan counterpart against installing a "dictatorship" by violently suppressing opponents and seizing state bodies.

In a Twitter post, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza described Santos' move to offer Ortega and her husband asylum as "cynical," adding that Bogota had become the center of "conspiracy against democracy and peace in Venezuela."

Ortega outlines corruption charges against Maduro

Then, on Friday, she claimed to have evidence implicating Maduro and his circle of allies in an international bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction company Odebrecht. "They are very worried and anxious, because they know we have details on all the cooperation, amounts and people who got rich," She said, addressing a summit of Latin American prosecutors in Mexico via video link. "And that investigation involves Mr Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle."

Read more: Venezuela tells Germany 'don't interfere'

That prompted Maduro to hit back on Sunday, appearing on state television to accuse Ortega of receiving money as attorney general in exchange for blocking investigations he had ordered.

Following the allegations tabled by both sides, Venezuela's opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, also came out on Monday to deny claims that his presidential campaign team in 2012 had also received funds from Odebrecht.

dm/jm (AFP, AP)