In many ways, it was your average office job. You arrived in the morning, had an hour for lunch, you left in the afternoon. There was a WhatsApp group, Christmas parties and planes vacacionales. How is it today? Welcome to the jungle.

“They never asked us to be partisan. That’s part of the manual, to be apolitical. They never asked us to wear red, go to demonstrations or vote a certain way. It’s different from the judiciary branch of the public administration, where judges wear red berets and hang portraits of Chávez in their chambers. We were proud of not being like that.”

For over a decade, Nelson has been a public prosecutor en el interior, the province. He started when Isaías Rodríguez was Prosecutor General, and has remained at his post for the entire tenure of la doctora.

“But now, with Tarek, time will tell.”

From the get-go, it’s pretty clear that Nelson feels admiration for Ortega Díaz. While there’s no doubt she’s chavista, he says at least she’s not “one of them.” He defines her with a word not many would use for someone heading a government institution: “She’s an idealist.”

They no longer fought the Prosecutor General, they fought us all as an institution. And after the Constituyente, all the support turned into silence.

A few months ago, the Prosecutors Office demanded a guideline of procedures from the Ministry of Interior, after several cases of police brutality were recorded during OLP raids. That’s when it started, in Nelson’s take. “We’ve seen the rift for a long time, even if it was invisible from the outside.”

He remembers Luisa’s pronunciamiento very well:

“They took us all to the capital to watch her yearly address. We knew something was up, since our superiors were nervous and one even told me that hard times were coming. But I felt relieved to see her addressing the reality of the nation.”

Chavista hardliners didn’t feel relieved at all, wondering what was going on with the Prosecutor General, even if many were supportive of her stance inside the institution. It was business as usual and, as days went by and Luisa Ortega didn’t back down, things went sour. “We were told not to receive any kind of communications from the judiciary, essentially paralyzing legal processes.”

Courts had already been already ignoring orders from the Prosecutor’s Office, particularly for the release of detained protesters. Like the use of courts-martial on civilians, not releasing political prisoners who had been exonerated by courts violated due process. Days were tense and security was increased at the main gate and corridors of the Prosecutor’s HQ. Employees were advised not to wear shirts or jackets with emblems of the institution; the symbols could become targets.

“The worst was when the Supreme Court sworn in [Katherine] Harrington [as vice-prosecutor general]. It was the moment when they no longer fought the Prosecutor General, they fought us all as an institution. And after the Constituyente, all the support turned into silence.”

Employees were advised not to wear shirts or jackets with emblems of the institution; the symbols could become targets.

Nelson shrugs and finds the idea of working for ANC-appointed Prosecutor General Tarek William Saab, revolting. Barely surprised about how quick the changes among the top brass have been, he can’t stop feeling disgust at the illegality of it all. The future is more uncertain than ever, but he hopes Luisa will bring justice through international courts.

“Even if she’s deposed, they’re still worried. Why do you think they went raided her place? She has the scoop on them, corruption, human rights violations. Crimes with no statute of limitations.”

I look at Nelson, visually uncomfortable with some of my questions. I ask why la fiscal didn’t say anything in the past, knowing so much. He doesn’t know, perhaps by choice. He’s essentially a simple man doing his job to support his family. Aspirations beyond that are luxury.

But he closes the interview catching me off-guard with introspection:

“Look, the Public Ministry is filled with professionals who will continue their work as they’ve always done, no matter who’s in charge. We love what we do and we’ll try our best, given the circumstances.”

In Venezuela, public employees barely do their job as they barely make it by with their quince y último. But people like Nelson, the human face on the cogs of the machine, serve as a reminder that, regardless of your job, we’re way less divided than some would want us to be.

15 COMMENTS

  1. The husband of Luisa Ortega opened accounts in the Bahamas with over 6 million dollars from extortion money in cooperation with other fiscales, according to Godgiven.

  2. People can change. It is possible that LOD had an epiphany of sorts and realized that she had sold her soul to the devil and is doing penance or her past sins.
    I tend to believe that she is politically astute and her maneuvers have been designed to place her in a position of influence after this regime has been dissolved.
    Her failure to speak up when she knew the TSJ had been fraudulently installed combined with her concealment of crimes committed by the regime members, including crimes that she benefited from, give me the impression that she was one of the first rats to leave the sinking ship more than a crusader for justice and integrity.
    She is a politically astute person that has a knack for self preservation and advancement before she is any type of person of integrity.

    • The big reason of the split is the ANC. Mainly because is still a batshit idea that blew up the entire Venezuelan goverment, and the consequences of that are just barely starting to be understood.

      There’s also the possibility that she negotiated with the USA on her own.

      • Understood, but congress had already been neutered, gaged and had its hands tied behind its back. They should have discussed and agreed to what their reaction was going to be after the ANC went through. What happened to “hora cero” and 350? Absolutely nothing as far as I can tell.

        HAR jumped at the offer of elections after smartmatic admitted to fraud and that had major consequences, MUD divided and the street was lost. They, MUD, had some momentum. The question is how do they regain this momentum and accelerate. With mayors and governors being jailed and removed from their posts, and candidates disqualified regional elections look to be going nowhere. The only explanation I can come up with for this is twofold: corruption or some within MUD believe that the regime, given enough rope, will hang themselves. This second explanation seems to be the equivalent of believing in the tooth fairy based on the past two decades of Venezuelan history.

        • Given that MCM and Gaby Arellano were recieved on the Colombian parlament, I don’t think that the MUD has the legitimity to represent the opposition anymore. So, that reality will have consequences.

          I believe that the regime will be defeated. Specially without the MUD. Can be more effective without regime saboteurs pretending to be on your side.

  3. Am told by a lawyer who used to work inside the FGR when Luisa was still part of the regime that the organization was split into two , one (comprising most officials) who worked routine cases in the ordinary way , and an elite group close to Luisa who worked special cases , those that concerned the interests of the regime , the latter were treated and rewarded much better than the rest.

    My own conjecture is that Luisa purposely kept the lid on a number of corruptions cases which she learned about through her job and that the regime wanted to keep silent , and that at some point she got into a rift with one or more of the leaders of some of the factions that compose the regime top crcle or power , that the rift scalated and she and her family started being the target of harrasment and she responded by taking positions that opposed those of the regime until finally there was a total break , that probably there are a lot of people inside govt dissafected with those that currently control de regime and she begun to recieve words of support from these making her move into a more radical position each time ……..

  4. Great scoop. You put it really well in your last line:

    “In Venezuela, public employees barely do their job as they barely make it by with their quince y último. But people like Nelson, the human face on the cogs of the machine, serve as a reminder that, regardless of your job, we’re way less divided than some would want us to be.”

    There is no question that public servants can do their work and not be exposed directly to the misdeeds of the regime. Corruption and political interference will not be circulated on a chat group or office memo. Prosecutors will be assigned cases at the discretion of their boss, according to a range of considerations.

    Having said all of that, how could your subject possibly have followed the prosecution of Leopoldo Lopez and maintained this belief that political interference is limited to the Courts? Really. I know we all have to make a living. I know that puts people in a tough spot. It puts good people in misery, I have no doubt. But that proposition- that belief- just begs credulity.

    • The vast majority of fiscales in the Ministry have been/are/will be on the take/subject to political influence, as anyone who has ever had to bail out someone accused of a crime, real or imagined, will attest….

  5. LOD is useful as a public leader of the pragmatic wing of Chavismo that doesn’t want to go down in flames with the radical wing now governing. As such, she should be respected as a valuable ally, since supposed allies such as HRA/et. al., instead of being rats abandoning the sinking ship, are rats trying to clamber up the moorings still holding the sinking ship in place. LOD’s position is extremely dangerous to her personally, as she now has to be constantly shuttled from safe house to safe house, even though she has valuable/compromising information on the Regime “a buen resguardar”. Yes, she still is an unrepentant Chavista, one like FT, who believe that “next time” they’ll really get this socialism thing right, “para el bien de er Pueblo”.

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