Venezuela's fugitive prosecutor resurfaces in Brazil

 23 Aug 2017 - 9:11

Venezuela's fugitive prosecutor resurfaces in Brazil
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to the media in front of an image of Venezuela's national hero Simon Bolivar, during a news conference at Miraflores Palace in Caracas, Venezuela August 22, 2017. REUTERS/Marco Bello.

AFP

Brasília: Venezuela's fugitive former top prosecutor was expected to grab the limelight of an international forum in Brazil on Wednesday to intensify her battle against President Nicolas Maduro.

Brazil's prosecutors' office confirmed that Luisa Ortega, 59, was taking part in a crime-fighting conference in the capital Brasilia with representatives from the Latin American trade regional group Mercosur.

"She is taking part at the invitation of the prosecutor general," the office said in a statement regarding the conference, due to open at 9:00 am (1200 GMT).

The appearance of Ortega in Brazil adds to the intrigue around the increasingly high-profile critic, who vowed to use the big stage to deliver new corruption allegations against the embattled leader.

"I will talk about the Odebrecht scandal, corruption in Venezuela and my situation," she said in brief comments made to reporters at the airport following her arrival in Brasilia from Panama late Tuesday.

She was fired from her post this month after being earlier charged with misconduct by authorities loyal to Maduro.

She and her husband, German Ferrer, then fled on Friday after the pro-Maduro Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant against Ferrer for alleged corruption and extortion.

On Tuesday, Maduro announced he was asking Interpol to issue "red notice" warrants for "these people involved in serious crimes."

However, Columbia and Brazil have both firmly condemned Maduro's handling of the crisis. Oil-rich Venezuela has been suspended indefinitely from the Mercosur group.

A loyalist of late socialist president Hugo Chavez, Ortega broke ranks with his successor Maduro to become his most high-ranking domestic critic as international pressure on the president mounted.

Last month, Maduro set up a new constitutional body packed with his allies, which a few days later removed Ortega from her post.

She hit back on Friday by claiming she had evidence implicating Maduro and his close allies in an international bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht

"They are very worried and anxious, because they know we have details on all the cooperation, amounts and people who got rich," Ortega told a meeting of Latin American prosecutors in Mexico by video conference.

"And that investigation involves Mr Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle."

Maduro counter-attacked on Sunday, alleging on television that Ortega had received money for blocking corruption investigations that he had ordered.

Maduro was elected in 2013 after the death of his late mentor Chavez.

Venezuela has since descended into chaos that has raised fears for regional stability.

The fall in world prices for its oil exports has left it short of dollars for vital imports.

Maduro's critics accuse him of clinging to power by hijacking the state institutions amid shortages of food and medicine.

Clashes between protesters and police this year have left 125 people dead, according to prosecutors.