Venezuela's Top Court And President Reverse Course, Restore Powers To Legislature

Jerome Frank
April 14, 2017

Alluding to criticism of the court's ruling, he said it is the government's "right-wing, fascist" opponents who are attempting to break the constitutional order, but said his foes would be left with "their cold champagne, uncorked". "It's my obligation to express my great concern to the country", Luisa Ortega, usually considered a key ally of the Socialists who have ruled Venezuela for the past 18 years, said on Friday.

The public rebuke by the nation's top prosecutor is, perhaps, the clearest sign yet that support is eroding for Maduro within the dominant socialist party that his mentor Chavez assembled over the last two decades.

But now that the once-booming oil giant with the largest oil reserves in the world is struggling with food and medicine shortages and political chaos, she made a decision to voice her concern over events. "She was at an event to present her 2016 annual report, and ended up brandishing a copy of what she called "[Hugo] Chavez's constitution". The UN was among organisations calling on the court to reconsider its decision. These fissures within Maduro's government, no less than the opposition protests, should be watched carefully as Maduro seeks to consolidate Venezuela's slide from democracy to dictatorship.

On Thursday, protesting lawmakers scuffled with riot police outside the Supreme Court.

The oil-producing nation, which has been ravaged by an economic depression and food shortages for years, has been on tenterhooks since the Supreme Court's ruling late Wednesday further stoked claims by the opposition and foreign countries that Maduro is moving the government toward a dictatorship.

"In Venezuela, the constitution, civil, political and human rights and people power are in full force", Maduro said in a speech to cheering supporters.

South American regional bloc Mercosur - which suspended Venezuela in December - will hold crisis talks Saturday, Argentina announced.

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"We all have to get out - for the dignity of our country, the dignity of our children and the dignity of Venezuela", Borges said in urging Venezuelans to join in protests Saturday.

The US state department reiterated its call for Maduro to free political prisoners and hold immediate elections to resolve the crisis, saying the court decision to "usurp" the national assembly's powers represented a "serious setback for democracy in Venezuela". This is the first time since the opposition won the National Assembly in 2015 that they have managed to get the president to reverse a decision.

The Supreme Court ruled that in light of the National Assembly being in contempt for refusing to remove three lawmakers accused of fraud, the court would exercise parliamentary powers to "ensure the rule of law".

Outraged foes said the court action was a "coup" against an elected body. The government rejected that accusation Friday, lashing out at its critics as "imperialists".

The court decisions neutralised the opposition-majority National Assembly and revoked lawmakers' immunity from prosecution.

In 2014, hardline opposition activists led months of protests, but they turned violent and led to 43 deaths, their leader Leopoldo Lopez was jailed, and Maduro consolidated power.

The court on Saturday released new rulings that appeared to reinstate the authority of congress. But he has been forced to fend off opposition efforts to call a vote on removing him from power.

Other reports by Guamnewswatch

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