Venezuela court says it can take over Congress' powers

Posted March 31, 2017

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

At the end of a 20,000-word ruling issued Wednesday related to the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the TSJ said its Constitutional Hall or an agency it chooses will assume the National Assembly's duties. (None of the three legislators are now seated in the legislature).

Maduro has blamed the country's downward spiral on a US-led attack meant to topple his left-wing administration. In February of this year, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Venezuela's vice president for drug trafficking while President Donald Trump called for the immediate release of political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez.

The head of the 34-nation Organization of International States (OAS), Luis Almagro, said the Venezuelan court had dealt the final blows to democracy in the country and accused Maduro's "regime" of carrying out a "coup".

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. "The only Supreme Court I'm focused on right now is ours", Spicer said, referring to the fight in the US Senate to confirm a new Supreme Court justice.

The Supreme Court had already annulled most National Assembly decisions since the opposition won a legislative majority in late 2015 due to voter fury over an unprecedented economic crisis.

"This completely takes out the rug from under the people who argue that in Venezuela there is a balance of powers and that there are checks and balances", said Geoff Ramsey, a research associate at the Washington Office on Latin America.

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The meeting was the global community's latest effort to get to grips with Venezuela's unraveling, which has the rest of Latin America anxious.

Numerous countries also condemned the court verdict, while Peru recalled its ambassador to Venezuela.

But the Supreme Court scuttled the opposition's powerful two-thirds majority when it suspended the three investigated lawmakers.

This week, the Venezuelan Congress refused to authorize a joint venture between Venezuela's state-owned oil company and privately-owned companies.

Venezuela's political factions have been at loggerheads since opponents of President Maduro wrest control of the legislature previous year, putting an end to over a decade of near complete governing control enjoyed by the ruling coalition. "I want to tell you clearly what this ruling means to us", he said, tearing it into pieces.

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

The result was that even once the opposition took power in January 2016, almost every effort they made to change the direction of the country has been overruled by the court.