Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela: Opposition legislator Machado returns to Caracas

Maria Corina Machado back in Caracas Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Maria Corina Machado was elected to the National Assembly in 2010, representing the state of Miranda

Opposition Venezuelan lawmaker Maria Corina Machado has returned to Caracas after having her mandate revoked.

Ms Machado was in Peru when the National Assembly stripped her of her parliamentary immunity on Monday.

The Assembly said she breached the Venezuelan constitution last week when she addressed the Organization of American States as a guest of Panama.

Speaking to hundreds of supporters in Caracas, Ms Machado said she had been illegally dismissed.

"I am a still a legislator, more than ever, and will continue my activities inside and outside the National Assembly," she said.

National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello had threatened to have her arrested for "acting as a Panamanian ambassador" before the Organization of American States (OAS).

She was also accused of inciting violence.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Mr Cabello said Ms Machado could be prosecuted for inciting violence

Ms Machado was welcomed at the main Caracas airport by hundreds of supporters, who followed her to a demonstration in an opposition stronghold in the east of the capital.

"Mr Cabello has violated all of the laws of the nation. He does not know what the procedures are to have a lawmaker sacked from his post," she said.

"If the price that I have to pay so that our voice is heard around the world is this persecution and these threats, I'll pay it once and a thousand times."

'Plotting generals'

Venezuela has faced nearly two months of streets protests, with the opposition blaming the government's failed left-wing policies for high inflation, crime and the shortage of many staples.

Thirty-five people - from both sides of the political divide - have been killed in the protests, according to the government.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Hundreds of Ms Machado's supporters gathered in the eastern Caracas district of Chacaito

Ms Machado is one of the most outspoken voices in the opposition.

She has repeatedly called for the removal of President Nicolas Maduro, who was elected last year. But she has reiterated that he should be ousted "through legal means".

Another high profile opposition leader, Leopoldo Lopez, has been under arrest since 18 February, also accused of inciting violence.

On Tuesday, Mr Maduro announced the arrest of three air force generals for "plotting an uprising" against his government.

The names of the three men have not been officially released.

"I have ordered a full investigation into the incident. If the three generals are found to be guilty, they should receive the toughest punishment," he said.

Mr Maduro has previously accused right-wing sectors backed by the United States of stirring up trouble as part of a plot to oust him.

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