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Venezuelan attorney general fired by newly-installed constituent assembly as her office surrounded by troops in 'siege'

10:18 EDT 5 Aug 2017 | Yahoo News

Venezuelan attorney general fired by newly-installed constituent assembly as her office surrounded by troops in 'siege'Venezuela's contested new assembly fired the country's dissident attorney general, Luisa Ortega, on Saturday, and ordered she stand trial, in a move certain to provoke greater international criticism. The body, which made the sacking its first order of business, also said it planned to operate as Venezuela's supreme power for up to two years. Troops surrounded the office of Ms Ortega on Saturday ahead of the move, as the newly installed constituent assembly began the session aimed at removing her from power. Ms Ortega was suspended by the supreme court on Friday evening, hours after the assembly - derided by government critics as an illegitimate power grab - convened for the first time. On Saturday morning she tweeted a photo of the soldiers outside her office, saying: "I reject this siege by the public ministry. I denounce before the national and international community this arbitrariness." Rechazo asedio al @MPvenezolano. Denuncio esta arbitrariedad ante la comunidad nacional e internacional #5Agpic.twitter.com/un7QWGBGJ7— Luisa Ortega Díaz (@lortegadiaz) August 5, 2017 She told reporters she was roughed up as she tried to enter her office, claiming that one officer hit her with his body shield. She left on a motor bike amid the chaos. Later, in a statement, released by the public prosecutor's office, she accused Mr Maduro's government of  leading a "coup against the constitution". She added: "I do not recognize the decision." Her dismissal was, she said,  "just a tiny example of what's coming for everyone that dares to oppose this totalitarian form of ruling." The constituent assembly replaced Ms Ortega with President Nicolas Maduro's human rights ombudsman, Tarek Saab, a government ally who the opposition says has turned a blind eye to state abuses. Ms Ortega, 59, has become a lightning rod for government fury after she turned against Mr Maduro, speaking out against what she saw as an erosion of democracy. On Thursday she filed legal proceedings to attempt to block the constituent assembly from convening. On Friday, when her attempt failed, Delcy Rodriguez, the former foreign minister and Maduro confidant who heads the assembly, said they would prioritise punishing opponents. Delcy Rodriguez, in red, listens in as Diosdado Cabello, head of the ruling socialist party, addresses the constituent assembly on Friday  “Don’t think we’re going to wait weeks, months or years,” she said, after she was voted unanimously by all the pro-government delegates who make up the assembly to lead. “Tomorrow we start to act. The violent fascists, those who wage economic war on the people, those who wage psychological war, justice is coming for you.” Before the assembly convened, Mr Maduro said it would be used to strip opposition politicians of their immunity, and described the body as "a super power".  It will have sweeping powers to upend institutions, rewrite the constitution and in theory could even remove Mr Maduro. One of its first tasks could be the closure of the opposition-controlled congress and the removal of Ms Ortega, a long-time supporter of late president Hugo Chavez. The constitutional assembly was seated despite strong criticism from the United States, other countries and the Venezuelan opposition, which fear the assembly will be a tool for imposing dictatorship. Supporters say it will pacify a country rocked by violent protests. Protests in Venezuela on July 30 But the opposition is struggling to regain its footing in the face of the government’s strong-arm tactics and the re-emergence of old, internal divisions. Several opposition activists have been jailed in recent days, others are rumoured to be seeking exile and one leader has broken ranks with the opposition alliance to say his party will field candidates in regional elections in December, despite widespread mistrust of Venezuela’s electoral system. In a sign of its apparent demoralised state, only a few hundred demonstrators showed up for a Friday protest against the constitutional assembly - one of the smallest turnouts in months. But an increasing number of foreign governments have sided with the opposition, refusing to recognise the constitutional assembly and further isolating Mr Maduro’s government. On Friday, the Vatican urged Mr Maduro to suspend the new body, expressing “deep worry for the radicalization and worsening” of the turmoil in Venezuela. Strongly condemn removal of #Venezuelan Prosecutor General on first day of Constituent Assembly. Independent powers must be protected. pic.twitter.com/NaSMJTnNzr— Sir Alan Duncan MP (@AlanDuncanMP) August 5, 2017 Foreign ministers from several South American nations said they would gather on Saturday in Brazil for an emergency meeting to decide whether to expel Venezuela from the Mercosur trade bloc for violating its democratic norms. Venezuela was suspended from the group in December. Ms Ortega's removal was condemned by Sir Alan Duncan, Britain's minister for Europe and the America's on Twitter as he called for her independent powers to be protected.  


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