Colombia South America Venezuela

Former Venezuelan Attorney General Flees to Colombia, Offered Asylum

Caracas (VA) – Former Venezuelan Attorney General Luisa Ortega has been offered political asylum in Colombia after fleeing to the neighboring South American country on Friday.

Ortega and her husband, United Venezuelan Socialist Party congressman German Ferrer, reportedly departed Venezuela for Aruba by boat before embarking in a private jet to Bogota along with at least one of their aides.

The move came just two days after the couple was accused of being at the center of a multimillion-dollar extortion racket, in which Ortega allegedly granted businesspeople immunity from prosecution in exchange for kickbacks.

Ortega was herself removed from her post by the National Constituent Assembly on August 5 at the behest of the Supreme Court, which had found her guilty of “grave misconduct”.

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The top prosecutor was slapped with a travel ban and asset freeze by the Supreme Court in late June ahead of a formal impeachment hearing on July 4, which Ortega neglected to attend. Ferrer was likewise prohibited from leaving the country last week after the new attorney general, Tarek William Saab, opened an investigation into the alleged corruption case.

This Monday, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos confirmed that Ortega was in Colombia and indicated that his government would offer her political asylum.

“Attorney General Luisa Ortega is under the protection of the Colombian government. If she requests asylum, we will grant it,” he tweeted.

The offer of asylum was seconded by the president of the Colombian Senate, Efrain Cepeda, who said he was inviting Ortega to a session of the legislative body on Tuesday.

“I support asylum for prosecutor Luisa Ortega, her husband and close advisers. We shall reach out to the defenders of democracy,” he stated via Twitter.

The statements by the Colombian government were met with sharp rebuke in Venezuela, which accused its neighbor of meddling in Venezuelan internal affairs.

“Bogota has become the center of the conspiracy against democracy and peace in Venezuela,” declared Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jorge Arreaza on Monday.

“What can be expected of the government that has welcomed the head of the 2002 coup against Hugo Chavez?” he added, referring to Pedro Carmona, the de facto president during the short-lived April 11, 2002 coup who was granted asylum in Colombia that same year.

Ortega has been on a collision course with the Maduro government since she publically opposed a controversial Supreme Court ruling in late March that would have authorized the judiciary to exercise certain legislative functions.

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The ex-attorney general has since become one of the most vocal adversaries of the process to convene a National Constituent Assembly to rewrite the Venezuelan constitution as a proposed solution to country’s current political crisis, which she has decried as “totalitarian”.

Her critics have, however, accused her of political partisanship and leniency vis-a-vis deadly opposition political violence, which has reportedly claimed over 30 lives since April.

Speaking from Bogota on Friday, Ortega accused the Maduro government of attempting to cover up its alleged involvement in a region-wide corruption scandal centered in the Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

“This investigation involves Mr. Nicolas Maduro and his circle,” the former prosecutor claimed.

“It’s the largest act of corruption in the region and this has them worried and anxious, because we have information and details about all of the operations and amounts,” she continued.

President Maduro fired back on Sunday, accusing his ex-attorney general of refusing to tackle corruption during her tenure.

Venezuela Analysis

“In the four years that I’ve been in office, I’ve never had the support of the attorney general in the fight against corruption,” he said during a televised interview with journalist Jose Vicente Rangel.

“She collected money from the corrupt so they could leave the country. Only now do I find out a that she was protecting a whole network of corruption,” the head of state added, referring to last week’s extortion allegations.

The Odebrecht scandal has seen two indictments so far in Venezuela. Last month, two individuals linked to former Transport Minister Haiman El Troudi were summoned to attend a hearing in relation to the controversy.

Venezuela’s right-wing opposition has likewise faced corruption allegations linked to Odebrecht.

According to Brazilian newspaper El Globo, the ex-director of Odebrecht in Venezuela, Euzenando Azevedo, alleged that Miranda Governor Henrique Capriles received a “$15 million dollar donation” from the company in 2013.

Capriles, for his part, has denied the allegation.

This post by Lucas Koerner originally ran on Venezuela Analysis.


Also published on Medium.