Venezuela Supreme Court accuses four new MPs of treason
Venezuela's top court accused four opposition lawmakers of treason on Tuesday, following similar accusations against 10 legislators this month, escalating a deep political crisis in the South American country.
Security forces had earlier prevented lawmakers from entering the legislature for Tuesday's session, saying they were investigating the possible presence of an explosive device inside the building.
The Supreme Court in a statement posted on its Facebook page accused lawmakers Carlos Paparoni, Miguel Pizarro, Franco Casella and Winston Flores of treason and inciting rebellion. The accusations marked the latest step in a crackdown by President Nicolas Maduro on allies of opposition leader Juan Guaido following a failed effort to spur a military uprising in April.
“This simply gives us more strength,” Flores told Reuters, calling the Supreme Court's accusations “illegitimate orders from the dictator.” “We know they will continue with this process of trying to destroy the National Assembly.”
Last week, one opposition lawmaker was arrested and several took refuge in foreign embassies in Caracas or fled the country after similar accusations from the court.
Flores said he would make an “emergency” trip to Uruguay to denounce the wave of accusations against Venezuelan lawmakers to the parliament of the Mercosur trade bloc, where he is also a representative, in Montevideo.
In a tweet, Pizarro called the court ruling “an illegal sentence that seeks only to generate fear to shut us up.”
Opposition leaders in recent weeks have called such charges an effort by the ruling Socialist Party to shutter the legislature.
Guaido, leader of the opposition-controlled Assembly, in January invoked Venezuela's constitution to assume an interim presidency, arguing Maduro's 2018 re-election was illegitimate. More than 50 countries have recognized him as the country's rightful leader, and say the assembly is its last remaining democratic institution.
Maduro calls Guaido a puppet of the United States seeking to oust him in a coup.
(Cover picture: The president of Venezuela's Supreme Court, Maikel Moreno (C), reads a statement at the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela, May 8, 2019. /VCG Photo)