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Red Cross stands behind leaders removed by Venezuelan dictatorship in regime ordered shakeup

The Supreme Court added it will work with the attorney general’s office to prosecute the outgoing board

Red Cross | Shutterstock

August 7, 2023 8:02am

Updated: August 7, 2023 8:02am

Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Friday ordered a restructuring of the country’s Red Cross, dismissing its president and board of directors as part of a shakeup contested by the humanitarian support organization.

"A broad and diverse restructuring is ordered in the Venezuelan Red Cross with the participation of the sectors of Venezuelan society," reads the sentence issued by the Constitutional Chamber, which operates under the control of the communist Maduro regime.

As part of the ruling, a new board of directors was appointed, which will be chaired by the former president of Fedecamaras, the country’s largest business chamber, Ricardo Cusanno. He is expected to appoint the rest of the members of the board. 

The new board will be in charge of carrying out an internal reorganization of the Red Cross within one year, the ruling said. 

The Supreme Court added it will work with the attorney general’s office to prosecute the outgoing board.

The operations of the Venezuelan Red Cross will continue while the restructuring takes place, the court continued in its announcement. 

The president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and the Red Crescent National Societies, Miguel Villarroel, urged Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro to halt the government intervention in the organization’s operations in the South American country. 

"I ask in the most respectful way that you do not allow arbitrary action by a state entity to stain the 128 years of life of our institution," Villarroel said in a video message posted on X.

Historically, the Venezuelan Red Cross has played an important role in helping to alleviate the shortage of medicines in the country and assisted in providing relief after natural disasters.

The decision of the Venezuelan court comes a week after the attorney general appointed by the communist Maduro regime, Tarek William Saab used his power to launch an investigation into its president, Mario Villaroel.

The communist dictatorship accused Villaroel of engaging in "alleged harassment and mistreatment" against Red Cross volunteers and workers, resulting in his dismissal after more than four decades despite his world renowned reputation and 40-year record. 

In a statement, Venezuela's Red Cross expressed its "absolute and unrestricted support" for Villarroel.

Villarroel, 76, is a lawyer who studied criminology at the Central University of Venezuela. He is currently the professor for criminal law at the Universidad Santa Maria in Caracas and president of the Venezuelan Red Cross Society.

In 1987, he succeeded Enrique de la Mata Gorostizaga as President of the International League of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies from 1987 to 1997. He also served as the president of the Centre for Human Dialogue in Geneva, Switzerland.