Caracas (AFP) – Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly on Tuesday approved plans to prosecute President Nicolas Maduro for corruption, in a non-binding yet symbolic vote by a legislature which is effectively powerless.
During the session, lawmakers voted to impeach Maduro over his alleged involvement in the vast corruption scandal centering on the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht that has engulfed much of Latin America.
Journalists were unable to attend the session after being blocked by the military police.
“There are sufficient grounds to take this legal process forward over acts of corruption,” read the resolution, which was approved by 105 deputies but rejected by the two lawmakers representing the regime.
The vote however only has symbolic value as the Supreme Court, which is loyal to Maduro, has systematically blocked all of the National Assembly’s efforts to prosecute the president or his government.
The opposition won a historic victory in legislative elections in late 2015, taking 112 of the National Assembly’s 167 seats.
However it has never been able to exercise any real power, especially after Maduro installed a powerful new body, the Constituent Assembly, in July 2017. The Assembly’s 545 seats are filled with Maduro allies and has unlimited powers to dissolve the National Assembly or amend laws.
On Twitter, Venezuela’s top prosecutor Tarek William Saab denounced the National Assembly’s vote as “a farcical and immoral act,” saying it lacked any “legitimacy.”
Saab’s predecessor, Luisa Ortega Diaz said last year that she had proof implicating Maduro and his close allies in the Odebrecht scandal, prompting a major government backlash and forcing her to flee the country in August.
Last month, Brazil’s Estado newspaper said Maduro had awarded Odebrecht almost $4 billion for public works in exchange for donations to his 2013 campaign, citing documents in the possession of Brazilian and Venezuelan prosecutors.
Gripped for months by its worst political and economic crisis in decades, Venezuela is becoming increasingly isolated on the international stage, with Maduro facing mounting criticism over his authoritarian rule.