Luisa Ortega Diaz was once appointed by Hugo Chavez to be Venezuela’s Prosecutor General, the equivalent of Attorney General in many other countries such as the United States, a post she held for ten years between 2007 and 2017. Although ideologically aligned with Chavez and potentially some of Maduro’s programs, she broke with the current president of Venezuela this spring. Details of that break continue to emerge.
In late March, Ortega denounced the Maduro controlled Supreme Court for attempting to nullify the elections of the opposition party to the legislature. After months of rising tensions, the Venezuelan government declared her to a public enemy, froze her bank accounts, and forbade her from leaving the country, all on supposed charges of corruption herself. Saying that she feared for her life, she left Venezuela on a boat Friday and arrived on the island of Aruba before getting a flight to El Dorado airport in Bogota, Colombia.
Addressing a meeting of international prosecutors in Pueblo, Mexico, Ortega stated that Maduro’s true motivation for removing her from her job was to cover over his and his government’s corruption by accepting at least $100 million in bribes from Odebrecht. Odebrecht, the disgraced Brazilian construction company, has admitted to bribing officials throughout Latin America in exchange for receiving lucrative government contracts. Ortega also stated that she has, or did have, evidence linking Odebrecht to the Venezuelan government,
“And that has them very worried and distressed because they know we have the information and detail of all the operations and amounts. We have the detail of all the cooperation, amounts and characters that were enriched and that investigation involves Mr. Nicolás Maduro and his associates.”
It is not clear if Ortega will officially seek asylum in Colombia, where she is currently staying with her husband along with two other associates. It is also not known who knew of or approved her flight to Bogota before her plane left Aruba, however, her arrival there coincides with a more aggressive posture from other Latin American nations against the actions of Maduro. Mexico and Colombia are two nations that have been among the most vocal.
For now, opposition leaders still in Venezuela live with a target on their back.