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article imageVenezuela seeks cross-border arrest of ex-prosecutor

By Alexander MARTINEZ (AFP)     Aug 22, 2017 in World

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro said Tuesday he would seek international cooperation to arrest a fired chief prosecutor who fled the country after defying him amid a deadly political crisis.

"Venezuela is going to ask Interpol to issue a red notice against these people involved in serious crimes," Maduro told a news conference, referring to ex-chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega and her lawmaker husband.

The couple faces court action by Maduro's allies which they have denounced as politically motivated.

They fled first to Colombia and were bound on Tuesday for Brazil, Colombian migration authorities said.

Both those countries have echoed Ortega and the United States in condemning Maduro's handling of the crisis.

A loyalist of late socialist president Hugo Chavez, Ortega broke ranks with his successor Maduro to become his most high-ranking domestic critic as international pressure on the president mounted.

Ortega, 59, was fired from her post this month after being earlier charged with misconduct by authorities loyal to Maduro.

She and her husband, German Ferrer, fled on Friday after the pro-Maduro Supreme Court issued an arrest warrant against Ferrer for alleged corruption and extortion.

The Venezuelan courts had already frozen Ortega's assets and banned her from traveling abroad.

- Call to pope -

Maduro has faced months of deadly mass protests by opponents who blame him for an economic crisis and are demanding elections to replace him.

International pressure has also grown, with US President Donald Trump even saying this month that the United States reserved the option of military intervention in the Venezuela crisis.

Maduro appealed to Pope Francis for help on Tuesday -- Vatican-backed talks between Maduro's si...
Maduro appealed to Pope Francis for help on Tuesday -- Vatican-backed talks between Maduro's side and the center right-led opposition broke down last year

Maduro on Tuesday called on Pope Francis to help ward off the US "military threat."

"May the pope help us prevent Trump from sending troops to invade Venezuela," Maduro told a news conference.

"I ask for the pope's help against the military threat from the United States."

Vatican-backed talks between Maduro's side and the center right-led opposition broke down last year. But Maduro on Tuesday called for Francis also to "help us establish a respectful dialogue" again.

- Corruption claims -

Last month, Maduro set up a new constitutional authority packed with his allies, which a few days later removed Ortega from her post.

She hit back on Friday by claiming she had evidence implicating Maduro and his close allies in an international bribery scandal involving Brazilian construction firm Odebrecht.

Venezuela's former attorney general Luisa Ortega  a leading critic of President Nicolas Maduro ...
Venezuela's former attorney general Luisa Ortega, a leading critic of President Nicolas Maduro, is headed to Brazil

"They are very worried and anxious, because they know we have details on all the cooperation, amounts and people who got rich," Ortega told a meeting of Latin American prosecutors in Mexico by video conference.

"And that investigation involves Mr Nicolas Maduro and his inner circle."

Maduro counter-attacked on Sunday, alleging on television that Ortega had received money for blocking corruption investigations that he had ordered.

He accused Ferrer of running an "extortion network" in the state prosecution service.

In Brazil, Ortega was scheduled to attend an international prosecutors' conference on Wednesday, the Brazilian state attorneys' office said in a statement.

- Opposition alleges repression -

Maduro was elected in 2013 after the death of his late mentor Chavez.

Venezuela has since descended into chaos that has raised fears for regional stability.

The fall in world prices for its oil exports has left it short of dollars for vital imports.

Maduro's critics accuse him of clinging to power by hijacking the state institutions amid shortages of food and medicine.

Venezuela's center-right-led MUD opposition coalition accuses security forces of beating and killing protesters.

Clashes between protesters and police this year have left 125 people dead, according to prosecutors.

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