A socialist member of Venezuela’s National Assembly has accused opposition leader Maria Machado of treason.
Legislator Tania Diaz called for a vote to investigate Machado for deaths that have taken place since the protests began last month saying “We will ensure revenge for those deaths.” She added “Anyone who violates the right to life is violating the constitution.” The measure passed so the investigation will proceed.
During the day the President of the National Assembly Diosdado Cabello told reporters Machado faces murder and treason charges. The LA Times reports that Cabello repeatedly labeled Machado an “assassin.”
There have been 28 deaths associated with the protests so far. A majority of those deaths were students killed by pro-government groups known as colectivos who often ride near protests on motorcycles. Videos of the colectivos firing guns at protesters have appeared online in the past month. But in many cases government officials with ties to President Maduro simply claim protesters were responsible for the deaths.
For instance in one of the most recent shootings of a student a state governor blamed “snipers among protesters” for the death. Similarly when a young beauty queen was shot in the head last month a government minister claimed a fellow protester was responsible. Eyewitnesses to the shooting blamed colectivos and noted that 7 other protesters were shot at the same time.
The attempt to silence Machado on trumped up charges follows the pattern of treatment opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez has experienced. Lopez was arrested in February on charges including murder, arson and incitement and immediately placed in a military prison. Some of those charges were later dropped but charges of incitement remain. Lopez wife has since described Venezuela as a “dictatorship.”