Venezuela's top prosecutor rebukes Supreme Court power grab

Apr 10, 2017, 01:06

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro urged called on the country's Supreme Court on Saturday to review a decision stripping Congress of its legislative powers.

But this week's Supreme Court ruling that effectively shuts down the country's legislature has finally convinced much of the global community that Venezuela's democracy has fully collapsed. Several protesters were arrested and some journalists had their cameras seized.

He called on supporters to "continue the fight for freedom" and hold a new protest in the capital Caracas on Saturday.

"As long as the National Assembly´s contempt of court and invalidity persist, parliamentary powers shall be exercised directly by (the Supreme Court´s) constitutional chamber or by the body it designates to safeguard the rule of law", it said late Wednesday night.

March 31 Bonds issued by the Venezuelan government crashed on Friday as political tensions escalated following the annulment of the country's legislature by its high court earlier this week, a move that ignited protests and worldwide condemnation.

Earlier this month, opposition lawmakers called on the Latin American development bank CAF to deny a $400m loan request from the Maduro government, saying his steps previous year to bypass lawmakers and instead seek Supreme Court approval of the 2017 budget were unconstitutional.

But the hardest line came from the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, who echoed Maduro´s opponents´ claims of an internal "coup d´etat".

Why is Venezuela in crisis?

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The photo shows a view of the National Assembly building in Caracas, Venezuela.

"It's time to mobilize!" student David Pernia, 29, said in western San Cristobal city, adding Venezuelans were fed up with autocratic rule and economic hardship.

The High Commissioner, who has voiced increasing concern at the lack of independence of national rule of law institutions in Venezuela, also called on the Government to guarantee people's rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of expression. Then he went on state TV to argue that Venezuela's institutions are operating normally and that it is his "right-wing, fascist" opponents who are attempting to break the constitutional order.

"I want to firmly say that Venezuela is a sovereign country and Venezuelans do not accept foreign intervention", Ortega said during the presentation of her office's annual report on 2016.

Maduro was conspicuously silent during much of the two days of turmoil.

However, after years of failure on the streets, it is unlikely public protests will develop into the wave of anti-Maduro unrest seen in 2014.

Venezuelan authorities called on the country's Supreme Court to review its decision this week to annul the opposition-led congress, which critics have decried as a "coup" and a lurch to dictatorship.

Maduro has jailed dozens of opponents and ridden roughshod over lawmakers' powers ever since the opposition swept congressional elections by a landslide in 2015 and immediately set out to remove the socialist leader from office through a recall referendum.

It also revoked an earlier ruling that stripped lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution. Rather, the opposition will be hoping ramped-up foreign pressure or a nudge from the powerful military may force Mr Maduro to call an early election.

"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.