By Laura Gamba
BOGOTA, Colombia (AA) - Venezuelan authorities have arrested at least 19 people in a widening corruption probe that has involved high-ranking government officials.
"There are 19 arrested so far, and I am sure that more are coming," Jorge Rodriguez, the head of the National Assembly, said Tuesday.
The accusations have already prompted Oil Minister Tareck El Aissami to resign. After his resignation and the arrest of four officials emerged Monday, President Nicolas Maduro said his government had adopted a firm stance in the fight against corruption in the country.
Maduro underlined his decision “to get to the root" of the corruption plots, which he said are embedded in the political, judicial and economic apparatus, for which he asked to apply "an exemplary punishment" to those involved.
In a meeting he chaired with the national leadership of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), the president said he would act against everyone involved, including “ministers, governors, mayors, businessmen and lawmakers."
"We have taken a vertical, frontal, absolute position: the fight against corruption and the corrupt, against those who steal from the people, wherever they are, wherever they come from, whatever they believe," he said.
The National Assembly on Tuesday approved a draft agreement in support of the fight against corruption promoted by the government. The appeal to end corruption was also joined by the National Armed Forces, which issued a statement in support of the president.
"In recent days, we have learned of the forceful actions taken by the Bolivarian Government against a group of public officials who have committed flagrant acts of corruption, which significantly affect the republican morale, peace, good living, development and prosperity of the Venezuelan society," it said.