Published: Fri, March 31, 2017
World News | By Cecilia Wilkerson

Venezuela court says it can take over Congress' powers

Venezuela court says it can take over Congress' powers

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's Supreme Court has ruled that it can take over responsibilities assigned to congress in what opponents of President Nicolas Maduro say is part of an attempt to install a dictatorship in the South American nation.

"What the National Assembly can't do should be done by the Court to prevent the state from being diluted", said Tineo Suquet.

On Tuesday, the Supreme Court issued another ruling limiting the parliamentary immunity of deputies.

In a decision late Wednesday night, the magistrates said that as long as lawmakers remain in contempt of past court rulings nullifying all legislation coming out of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, the high court can assume exercise congressional duties itself. (None of the three legislators are now seated in the legislature). The government, struggling to overcome widespread shortages and triple-digit inflation, has argued that lawmakers are being obstructionist by refusing to sign off on its budget and other key economic decisions.

Maduro has blamed the country's downward spiral on a US-led attack meant to topple his left-wing administration.

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"We call for the government of Venezuela to permit the democratically-elected National Assembly to perform its constitutional functions, hold elections as soon as possible, and immediately release all political prisoners".

Except for a small group that protested outside the Supreme Court and another one that briefly blocked traffic on Caracas' highway, the streets were calm as Venezuelans accustomed to Maduro's aggressive tactics spent time waiting in long lines for food and going about daily chores that have become increasingly hard as Venezuela's economy has suffered. "We will not comply", he said.

There was swift worldwide condemnation of the de facto annulment of the National Assembly, where the opposition won a majority in late 2015 amid an unprecedented economic crisis that has seen Maduro's popularity plummet.

"We must continue. doing our jobs despite the risk, because no one person gave us our titles as lawmakers".

The worldwide community is registering its disapproval.

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Numerous countries also condemned the court verdict, while Peru recalled its ambassador to Venezuela. The government of Mexico said it was "profoundly worried" about the Supreme Court's ruling.

Late on Wednesday, however, it authorized Maduro to create oil joint ventures without congressional approval.

The TSJ said the National Assembly's contempt began in late December after the legislature swore in three members of Venezuela's Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition that the TSJ had suspended, along with one pro-government member, pending an investigation into allegations of electoral fraud.

Borges then went ahead and ripped up the court's ruling, to the applause of those gathered.

"This is trash from people who have kidnapped the constitution, rights and freedom of Venezuelans".

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