Venezuela Now Officially a DictatorshipPosted: March 31, 2017 | |
Venezuela Supreme Court Assumes Powers of Opposition-Controlled Congress.
CARACAS, Venezuela—Venezuela‘s Supreme Court has assumed all powers of the opposition-controlled congress, a move lawyers and rights activists said amounted to the effective dissolution of the legislature in Latin America’s largest oil producer.
“This ruling marks the point of no return for the dictatorship,” National Assembly Vice President Freddy Guevara said. Assembly President Julio Borges called the act a coup and urged Venezuelans to rally on Saturday to defend the country’s democracy.
“This is despotic rule. There is absolutely no counterweighting [to Mr. Maduro].”
— Michael Shifter of policy group Inter-American Dialogue
The Supreme Court, which is packed with allies of President Nicolás Maduro, ruled late Wednesday that the congress was in contempt of court for having sworn in three lawmakers from the remote Amazonas state whom the ruling party had accused of electoral fraud. The court said it takes over all “parliamentary capacities” until the conflict is resolved.
“Maduro now has all powers in his hands, without any checks and balances,” Mr. Borges said. “This is the action of a desperate man who knows the whole world is turning against him.”
Several opposition lawmakers who tried to enter the Supreme Court building Thursday afternoon were blocked by soldiers in riot gear and manhandled by government supporters shouting “get out.”
Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski called the court’s action unacceptable and recalled his country’s ambassador to Venezuela on Thursday. In Washington, the secretary-general of the Organization of American States called for an urgent meeting of member states to discuss “the subversion of democratic order” in Venezuela.
Venezuela’s opposition won overwhelming control of the assembly in December 2015, in a victory it called the first step toward ending almost two decades of rule by a far-left movement created by the late Hugo Chávez.
Since then, however, Mr. Maduro has marshaled allied judges and prosecutors to jail dozens of opposition officials and activists, torpedo a recall referendum on the president, and indefinitely postpone all scheduled elections for posts ranging from state governors to labor union heads.
Mr. Maduro’s ruling United Socialist Party, or PSUV, never presented any evidence of wrongdoing by the three opposition lawmakers, and government-appointed prosecutors still haven’t requested voting data 16 months after the start of an investigation, according to electoral officials.
The probe’s only real result to date has been to throw the National Assembly into legal limbo, allowing Mr. Maduro to gradually strip it of its powers.
Meanwhile, the country’s economy plunged around 15% last year alone and inflation has reached more than 400%, worsening already acute food and medicine shortages.
Wednesday’s ruling came a day after most OAS members criticized Venezuela for postponing elections and holding political prisoners. The body also voted to seek diplomatic solutions to the country’s deepening economic and political crisis…. (read more)