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Venezuela Supreme Court declares Congress decisions void

CARACAS, January 12th, 2016 (Reuters) Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the new National Assembly’s decisions are void unless three banned opposition lawmakers are removed from office, deepening a power struggle over the opposition’s new legislative majority.

Already beset by a deep economic crisis, Venezuela now seems to be sliding into a protracted period of political turmoil as both a newly-emboldened opposition and President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government play hardball with each other.

The Supreme Court in December blocked four lawmakers – three opposition and one allied with the government – from taking office after the Socialist Party made allegations of irregularities during last month’s legislative election.  Even Costa Rica expressed its concern over the Court’s and ruling party’s action in a statement last week, which the Maduro government quickly responded to in a scathing communiqué.

The opposition dubbed the ruling a bid to strip it of its super majority, and defiantly swore in the three barred opposition lawmakers anyway, one of a number of tussles between the newly convened congress and the court.

“Decisions taken or to be taken by the National Assembly while these citizens are incorporated will be absolutely null,” the court, which almost always rules in favor of the ruling Socialists, said in a statement on Monday.

The Socialists said congress was now effectively powerless unless the lawmakers, who hail from the southern jungle state of Amazonas, were removed.

“The logical, sane and democratic step is for the National Assembly’s leadership to revoke the swearing-in of these lawmakers,” said Socialist Party No. 2 and former National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

“If the National Assembly is in contempt, nobody is going to recognize it,” he said. The Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber had stepped in during similar situations in the past, he said.

The opposition said the measure was an authoritarian grab.

“The big loser is going to be Maduro because he’s going to create a constitutional crisis. He wants to immobilize the National Assembly, like Fujimori,” said Ramon Escovar, a lawyer advising the opposition bloc, referring to Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s dissolution of congress in 1992.

The opposition plan to introduce an amnesty law on Tuesday for jailed politicians and activists, while government lawmakers intend to push for a declaration of “national emergency” over the economic crisis.

The opposition also wants to sack Supreme Court justices sworn in by the then Socialist-led congress last month, which the opposition said would then allow for the ban on the three lawmakers to be lifted.

Many Venezuelans are fed up with the political bickering and want leaders on both sides to focus instead on fixing the recession, world’s highest inflation and shortages of basic products.

 

Reuters (OMX) and VOA.  Additional editing by ICR News.

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  • Ken Morris

    The opposition needs to tone it down fast or it and the country will lose everything.

    I understand that a stacked court can be frustrating, but defying even a stacked court is foolish. Once you lose the court, you lose the rule of law, and from that loss you’re left with only a battle in the streets.

    The opposition simply has to proceed poco a poco, getting what it can without destroying the system.

    And Costa Rica should have kept its mouth shut about this one.

    • Derryl Hermanutz

      I agree, Ken. What’s the harm in redoing the vote for the 4 disputed seats? …unless the opposition is depending on a supermajority to restack the Supreme Court with its own people, oust Maduro’s government, and implement its own one party dictatorship.

  • richard schlinder

    This is what you calL HIJACKED.

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