“Righteous and courageous.”
That, in addition to “blonde and tall,” is how El Tiempo, one of Colombia’s most important newspapers, described Luisa Ortega Díaz in a profile published in May.
Generous adjectives like these fall in line with the narrative that the Venezuelan Prosecutor General has been building ever since she left the criminal gang she was part of for ten years, also known as “the Venezuelan government.”
This revised version of history portrays her as a heroic woman who risked it all when she defied the regime in 2017, and omits any mention of the decade she spent aiding and abetting first Hugo Chávez, and then Nicolás Maduro.
Ortega’s portrait as a symbol of valor is completely inaccurate, yet the media, the international community and even people in the opposition accept it.
As Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, Ortega was the nation’s main executioner: She co-signed the unjust imprisonment of hundreds of dissidents, supported the extermination of the free press and repeatedly defended the regime from accusations of human rights abuses and authoritarianism.
Ortega was the nation’s main executioner: She co-signed the unjust imprisonment of hundreds of dissidents, supported the extermination of the free press and repeatedly defended the regime.
During her reign over the Public Ministry, Venezuela went from a prosperous nation to one of the poorest, most dangerous and least democratic places in the world. Yet, while she and her chavista friends enriched themselves by impoverishing the country, Ortega spent much of her time going to international conferences, as documented on her Twitter page. Absurdly, one of her last major projects at the Ministry was compiling a report of victims of government repression from 1958 to 1998—a flawed but democratic period that, when compared to the current one, seems like Disneyland.
These days, the reformed Ortega says her biggest regret is that she didn’t speak out against the Maduro regime sooner. She’s careful to direct her criticism at Maduro almost exclusively, and still speaks of Chávez as a benevolent revolutionary figure whose “humanist” project was derailed.
But she did more than just stay quiet: She allowed countless of innocent people to be sent to jail and, worse, actively tried to clean the regime’s image by serving as their spokesperson in the international stage.
Or in 2014, when CNN’s Ismael Cala asked her about allegations of human rights abuses.
“We’re currently experimenting what’s called a fourth generation war, which means it’s not a war that’s fought with rifles or cannons, but through social media and the press,” Ortega replied. “But we’ve always been a nation that has bravely faced attacks against the Venezuelan State. And in this case we’ll also face the attacks and come out victorious.”
What about political prisoners?
Nope, there is no such thing in Venezuela, Ortega claimed with a straight face.
Despite her unquestionable role in the Venezuelan tragedy, Ortega now lives in exile, seemingly absolved from all guilt. While many of her victims, like Lorent Saleh, rot in jail.
“Political prisoners are sent to jail because of their ideas and values. In Venezuela’s case, the people who are in jail have been detained because of common crimes,” she told Cala. “For example, in Leopoldo López’s case, some of the crimes he’s accused of are inciting violence, conspiracy to commit a crime and damage to property.”
Interestingly enough, Ortega now cites López’s arrest as one of the ways she defied the Maduro regime. You see, the government wanted to accuse the opposition leader of homicide and terrorism, but the “courageous” Ortega refused to cave in to the pressure from Diosdado Cabello, and instead charged López with the aforementioned crimes.
Despite her unquestionable role in the Venezuelan tragedy, Ortega now lives in exile, seemingly absolved from all guilt. While many of her victims, like Lorent Saleh, rot in jail, she travels around the world in a never-ending media tour, meeting foreign leaders and taking part in pointless pretend trials against Maduro.
Ortega’s time as head of the Public Ministry has apparently been erased from both her version of history and the public’s collective memory, and many of those who suffered at her hands, like López’s’ wife Lilian Tintori, now stand beside her as part of the resistance.
Venezuelan journalists like Isnardo Bravo even asked her if she has presidential ambitions, a suggestion Ortega doesn’t rule out and which seemed alarmingly possible when she toured the Colombia-Venezuela border recently, kissing babies and making promises, much like someone with political ambitions would do.
The irony of how those babies are growing outside their country because of a criminal regime that Ortega directly supported for ten years seemed to get lost amongst the camera flashes.
Ortega should be treated like what she is: a reformed criminal who is now cooperating with the good guys.
But let’s be clear: the idea of Ortega as president should send shivers down the spines of every Venezuelan who wants to see the country go back to a democracy where morality matters. While we should welcome anything she can contribute to the cause, we shouldn’t celebrate such a clearly morally-corrupt figure as honorable—and much less as someone who should ever be allowed anywhere near political power again.
Ortega should be treated like what she is: a reformed criminal who is now cooperating with the good guys. Her reward should be a lesser prison sentence, determined by how much she can reverse the damage she caused.
If she were to single-handedly bring down Maduro, I would be the first to forgive all her sins. That being said, I dream of a day when Venezuela is once again a democracy, and a place where a fair judge and system decide her fate.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.