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News > Latin America

Venezuela Top Court Reverses Ruling on National Assembly Powers

  • A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building near the national election board.

    A Venezuelan flag hangs from a building near the national election board. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 April 2017

The news comes hours after President Maduro called on the court to review the decision, promoting dialogue as the solution.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court reversed Saturday a decision for the judiciary to take on responsibilities of the National Assembly, which has been declared in contempt for more than one year, amid high-running tensions in the country flared by the move that has been widely misrepresented in international media.

Venezuela Supreme Court Says National Assembly Still in Contempt

In a statement Saturday, the South American country’s top court announced that the ruling had been dropped, hours after Venezuela’s Security Council called on the court to revisit the decision.

The court stated that it “abolished the content” of the decision handed down on Wednesday.

The ruling had stated that, "as long as the disrespect and invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persists, this Constitutional Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly by this Chamber or by the body it has in place to ensure the rule of law." Saturday’s reversal eliminated that provision.

Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno discussed the decision in a press conference Saturday, noting that the Venezuela's public powers are free to carry out their duties as they see fit, as long as such activities follow the constitution.

"The Supreme Court of Justice will never have conflicts with any other public power," Maikel said. "We are the abitrator."

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro described the situation on Friday as an “impasse” after Attorney General Luisa Ortega criticized the Supreme Court, calling the ruling a “rupture in the constitutional order.”

Was There a Coup? Has Venezuelan Parliament Been Dissolved?

"There is a controversy and it must be resolved through dialogue, not with extreme positions or by giving arguments to those who want to intervene Venezuela," he said.

Wednesday’s decision responded to an appeal filed by the Venezuelan Petroleum Corporation regarding the Organic Law of Hydrocarbons, which stipulates that the National Assembly must approve all joint ventures on such natural resources. The Supreme Court ruled that in light of the National Assembly being in contempt for refusing to remove three lawmakers accused of fraud, the court would exercise parliamentary powers to “ensure the rule of law.”

The ruling, misrepresented in international media as a move to dissolve the parliament, sparked a firestorm of criticism from the opposition as well as right-wing neighboring governments, with Peru and Colombia recalling their ambassadors.

Meanwhile, Organization of American States chief Luis Almagro — who has repeatedly sided with Venezuela’s opposition and threatened to invoke the Democratic Charter against the country to remove it from the bloc — accused Venezuela of carrying out a “self-coup.” Several OAS member countries called for a new meeting Monday to discuss the political situation in Venezuela in light of what they called a “violation of constitutional order.”

Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled in January 2016 that the National Assembly was in contempt over its inauguration of three lawmakers from the state of Amazonas who had been declared illegitimate due to electoral fraud charges.

Rather than removing the lawmakers to swiftly remedy the stalemate — which has led the Supreme Court to declare all National Assembly decisions null for months — since taking sweeping control of the Assembly in December 2015, the majority opposition parliament has largely focused on attempts to remove Maduro from office.

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