Venezuelan Supreme Court closes Legislative gives all power to Maduro

Venezuela top court assumes congress role foes decry 'dictatorship'
Venezuela top court assumes congress role foes decry 'dictatorship'

01 April, 2017

Venezuela's Supreme Court took over legislative powers today, after ruling the opposition-majority National Assembly was in contempt of court in an ongoing power struggle with leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

Peru's government immediately recalled its ambassador in protest while condemnations poured in from governments across Latin America.

An attempt a year ago to hold a recall referendum against Maduro was blocked when the national electoral council, controlled by loyalists of the president, cancelled the process, alleging fraud.

"In Venezuela there is no democracy, there was a coup and we need the solidarity of the OAS countries", he said referring to the debate this week in the hemispheric forum on the Venezuelan crisis.

“This is not only going to cause alarm for concern within the region, but also actions, and at this point, it will be very hard for countries to remain neutral, ” said Carlos Romero, a political scientist at the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas.

An opposition member waves a Venezuelan flag during a protest against President Nicolas Maduro in Caracas on Thursday.

That the judicial branch, which has not ruled against executive interests in years, dealt a blow to the legislature-the one body of power controlled by the opposition-is not necessarily surprising.

A senior official with the Atlantic Council called the move "a beating" to Venezuelan democracy.

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Critics decried the court's move as the latest sign of Maduro's authoritarian shift.

Venezuela's top court had already overturned most National Assembly decisions since the opposition win.

There was no consensus on a proposal by OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro to suspend Venezuela, but the tension-filled session ended with a pledge by 20 nations to closely watch the situation and take steps to ensure the government engages in dialogue.

On Wednesday night, the nation's highest court issued a ruling in which it deprived deputies of their legislative powers and declared it lawful for the government appointed Supreme Court justices to assume their functions.

The ruling of the Supreme Court of Justice would be based on the current State of Exception in Venezuela, which, however, does not establish the disappearance of public powers, according to the Constitution.

The U.S. also called for the immediate release of political prisoners including opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez, who has been incarcerated since early 2014. Meanwhile, some hard-liners called for the military, the traditional arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela and an important crutch for Maduro, to intervene.

"We reject the Peruvian government's rude support for the violent and extremist sectors in Venezuela", Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said in a series of tweets.

The Supreme Court's ruling stemmed from congress' refusal to authorize Venezuela's state-run oil company to form joint ventures with private companies, including Russia's Rosneft. These are broad enough to include nearly anything, but the court explicitly authorized President Nicolás Maduro to modify criminal laws, including the Code of Military Justice, noting that "military crimes may be being committed".

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