TSJ Goes After Mayors…Again

A fresh batch of arrest warrants have been issued to opposition mayors in protest-heavy municipalities. Deja-vu all over again.

Today, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Tribunal (TSJ) decided to remove Gustavo Marcano as Mayor of Lechería, Anzoategui State, and sentenced him to face 15 months in prison for “contempt,” after he refused to appear at a hearing for not complying with a court ruling forcing him to stop street blockades.

Marcano announced that he’ll no longer recognize the current TSJ justices. 

Sources say that he has fled the country.

In similar fashion, Barquisimeto Mayor Alfredo Ramos (Lara State) will now face a Court hearing on Friday, and he was also banned from leaving the country. In a Twitter post, he doubles down on street protests, stating that he will not obey the TSJ’s summons, calling the whole thing a sham [parapeto].

Fellow mayor José Barreras of neighboring Cabudare municipality was served with a similar court order.

The Mayor of Chacao Ramón Muchacho is set to to appear before the TSJ tomorrow, but perhaps the street blockades during tomorrow’s general strike will make it hard for Justices to get to work.  The Supreme Tribunal also slapped him with a travel ban.

In its statement, TSJ threatens Muchacho with arrest, explaining that his failure to attend such hearing will be considered a “tacit admission of the charges that have been levied against him.”

Venezuelan opposition Mayors being ousted from their posts by the highest court isn’t a new trend: Back in 2014, Enzo Scarano (San Diego, Carabobo State) and Daniel Ceballos (San Cristobal, Táchira State) were sentenced to prison for “contempt.” Ceballos is still in prison, in Sebin headquarters in Caracas.

With Maduro’s Foreign Minister Spanish mediator Zapatero fresh off his latest Venezuelan jaunt, paying lip service to the government’s willingness to deescalate and calling for peace and dialogue, TSJ’s latest streak of persecution makes it clear that repression will only get worse before it gets better.