Published: Sun, April 02, 2017
Medicine | By Daryl Nelson

Venezuela leader urges court to review ruling on congress

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is defending a Supreme Court ruling gutting the opposition-controlled congress of its last vestiges of power.

The announcement came hours before the opposition hoped to mount major protests against the socialist government, spurred by anger over the ruling.

In a rare show of dissent from a senior official, Venezuela's powerful attorney general Luisa Ortega, long an ally of Maduro, rebuked the court on Friday.

An opposition leader Freddy Guevara said the move "marks a point of no return on the road to dictatorship". "On the contrary, its institutions have adopted corrective legal measures to halt the deviant, coup-mongering actions of opposition lawmakers".

President Nicolas Maduro said in a midnight address on state television that the conflict between the Supreme Court and National Assembly had been overcome, but gave no details.

"We call for reflection so that the democratic path can be retaken", she said to the loud applause of aides gathered around her.

"In Venezuela the only dialogue possible is the vote", Borges said Friday night.

Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto expressed worry about the "deterioration of democracy" in Venezuela on Friday and instructed his foreign ministry to raise the matter again at the Organization of American States.

Pic: ReutersCARACAS: Venezuelan opposition protests began and foreign pressure mounted on Friday over a court takeover of Congress that many viewed as a lurch into dictatorship by a leftist government grappling with a plunge in popularity.

A few dozen protesters, waving banners saying "no to dictatorship", had clashed with police across Caracas on Friday.

Then a year ago, hundreds of thousands marched at various times, but still authorities thwarted the opposition's push for a referendum to recall Maduro and also postponed local elections.

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"We've gone through that before and we wouldn't want to repeat that experience or see fellow countries like Venezuela go through it", Vizcarra said.

Packed with judges loyal to Maduro, the Supreme Court late Wednesday ruled that the National Assembly was in contempt of court because of its handling of an electoral fraud case involving three lawmakers who no longer hold their legislative seats.

The head of the Organisation of American States likened the decision to a "self-inflicted coup" by the leftist Mr Maduro, and the top United Nations human rights official urged the high court to reverse its decision.

The government argues that the ruling was not seeking to supplant Congress but rather to guarantee the rule of law as long as legislators remain obstructionist by refusing to sign off on a budget and key economic decisions like a plan by Venezuela's state-run oil company to form joint ventures with private companies, including Russia's Rosneft.

Calling the move a "flagrant breach of democracy", Peru, led by centrist President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, immediately called back its ambassador and won praise from many democracy activists in the region.

Other pro-democracy activists are counting on the worldwide community - now that it is focused anew on Venezuela - to push Maduro to restore democracy and call elections that could pave the way for a new government.

"I don't support either side", said Yandry Diaz, 18, who works in a shoe shop.

OAS will hold a special session Monday, Secretary General Luis Almagro said. Most of that is due around mid-month as PDVSA's April 2017 5.25 percent note matures, requiring a combined interest and principal payment of $2.5 billion. The fall in oil prices since mid-2014 has exacerbated the crisis.

"It's untrue that a coup has taken place in Venezuela", the government said in a statement Thursday.

Goodman reported from Bogota, Colombia.

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