Venezuela’s newly installed constitutional assembly has voted unanimously to remove chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz and replace her with a government loyalist.

As the vote was taking place, pro-government delegates shouted “traitor” and “justice has arrived.”

Venezuela Political Crisis

National guardsmen in riot gear prevent Ortega Diaz, third left, from entering the general prosecutor’s office. (Wil Riera/Associated Press)

Ortega will be replaced by Tarek William Saab, a staunch government supporter who currently serves as the nation’s ombudsman.

Saturday’s vote came after about 30 members of Veneuzuela’s national guard took control of the entrance to the prosecutor’s offices in downtown Caracas and barred Ortega from entering.

There was no immediate explanation by the government, but Ortega tweeted photos of the troop movements to denounce what she called an arbitrary “siege” of her office.

The pro-government constitutional assembly held the vote on Saturday after convening a day earlier for the first time since last Sunday’s election. Critics fear the new elected body will erode democracy with its powers to rewrite the constitution in favour of giving President Nicolas Maduro expanded powers. Supporters say the assembly will pacify a country rocked by violent protests.

Ortega is a longtime loyalist who broke with Maduro’s government amid widespread protests in April over what she said was his breaking of Venezuela’s constitutional order. 

Trade bloc suspends Venezuela

In a separate development, South American trade bloc Mercosur suspended Venezuela indefinitely on Saturday.

Foreign ministers of Argentina, Paraguay, Uruguay and Brazil announced the decision in Sao Paulo, urging Maduro to release prisoners and immediately start a political transition.

“We are saying: Stop with this. Enough with the deaths, enough with the repression. It is not possible to inflict such torture to the people,” Brazilian Foreign Minister Aloysio Ferreira said after the meeting.

Mercosur has no provision for expulsion. It had suspended Venezuela temporarily in December for not complying with the bloc’s regulations, and toughened its stance following the controversial election of a constituent assembly on Sunday and the arrest of several opposition leaders.

Countries around the world have condemned the vote, calling it a bid to extend Maduro’s rule indefinitely.

Although Venezuela sits on the world’s largest-known oil reserves, millions are suffering food shortages and soaring inflation. Months of anti-government unrest have killed more than 120 people.

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