Venezuela's attorney general surprisingly broke ranks with President Nicolas Maduro on Friday, condemning recent Supreme Court rulings that consolidated the socialist president's power as a "rupture of constitutional order."
Attorney General Luisa Ortega is the first high-level official in Venezuela to criticize court rulings this week that effectively dissolved the opposition-majority legislature and revoked lawmakers' immunity from prosecution.
The rulings "show evidence of various violations of the constitutional order and ignorance of the state model established in our constitution," Ortega said live on state television at an event to mark the release of her 2016 annual report.
Ortega was long seen as a loyalist of the socialist "revolution" launched by Maduro's mentor Hugo Chavez in 1999.
But with once-booming oil giant Venezuela now mired in food shortages, political chaos and an epidemic of violent crime, she fired some of the most severe public criticism yet from within the president's own camp.
"It is my duty to inform my country of my deep concern over these events," she said, drawing applause from the crowd.
The criticism came two days after the court, which has staunchly backed Maduro through an economic and political crisis, assumed the powers of the National Assembly, the only pillar of power that was not under the president and his allies' control.
Critics have branded the move a "coup."
On Tuesday, the court also cleared the way for opposition lawmakers to be prosecuted for what Maduro calls treason.