Ortega’s transformation occurred gradually, according to her husband, socialist party lawmaker German Ferrer. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)
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CARACAS: Opponents of President Nicolas Maduro who have taken to the streets day after day in Venezuela now find themselves rallying in support of an unexpected hero: the chief prosecutor who helped throw many of them into jail. Until recently, Luisa Ortega was seen as a hard-line loyalist of the socialist administration, responsible for dozens of arrests on trumped-up charges against anti-government protesters. But now she is being lionized by the opposition and disaffected supporters of the late Hugo Chavez alike for her decision to break with Maduro, the hand-picked successor to "El Comandante". The Venezuelan opposition's embrace of Ortega, however tactical and awkward, underscores a stark truth after three months of paralyzing but so far unsuccessful protests: Removing Maduro will require winning over some of his backers.Ortega, the most prominent defector so far, brings a unique combination of impeccable revolutionary credentials, intimate knowledge of the government's inner workings and a semiautonomous post with which to challenge the government's moves to centralize power and crush the opposition.Ortega broke her silence, accusing the government of a democratic "rupture".Since then, she has sharpened her criticism, accusing the government of "state terrorism" and Maduro of dismantling Venezuela's democracy with plans to rewrite the constitution that was sponsored by Chavez.The government has retaliated with attempts to discredit and oust Ortega.
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