Dictatorship: Venezuelan Supreme Court takes over duties of legislature

The Supreme Court of Venezuela has announced it will take over all of the duties of the country’s legislature. The opposition party says the country has crossed a line into an outright dictatorship. From the Miami Herald:

In a ruling published late Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that while the National Assembly continued to defy court rulings all of its actions were “invalid” and that “the activities of the parliament would be exercised directly by [this court].”

The clash of the branches goes back to January 2016, when the National Assembly swore in three opposition representatives from Amazon state even as the court had decided to investigate their election amid suspicions of voter fraud. That investigation is ongoing and the opposition has said the court is simply trying to rob them of their super majority…

Opposition Congressman Freddy Guevara, with the Voluntad Popular party said the court decision wasn’t “just another ruling” and called for street demonstrations and “democratic resistance” to defend the country’s institutions.

“This ruling marks a point of no return for this dictatorship,” he said.

Reuters reports the opposition released a statement saying, “This unconstitutional sentence that we reject … cements another step in the dismantling of Venezuela’s democracy. The statement added, “This government is dying, and that’s why it’s turning to these desperate measures.”

This is just the latest move in an ongoing power struggle within the country between the ruling socialists led by President Maduro and the opposition party which has gained power as the country has suffered from chronic shortages of food and medicine as well as one of the highest crime rates in the world and rampant inflation. There were massive street protests against the socialist government in 2014 which resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of opposition leader Leopoldo Lopez on trumped up charges.

As the country’s financial situation continued to deteriorate, the opposition party won 112 of 167 seats in the National Assembly in elections held in December 2015. However, before the outgoing socialists left office they helped stack the country’s Supreme Court with judges loyal to the socialists. The result was that even once the opposition took power in January 2016, nearly every effort they made to change the direction of the country has been overruled by the court.

Polls show a majority of Venezuelans are ready for a change of government but President Maduro, who was elected after the death of Hugo Chavez, refused to abandon the socialist path set by his predecessor. As Maduro continued to consolidate his control over the country’s economy, the opposition party sought to put a referendum on the ballot that would remove him from office. After gathering millions of signatures, the office responsible for certifying the signatures (part of Maduro’s government) claimed they were fraudulent and refused to allow the effort to proceed.

Now, with most of the country starving, triple-digit inflation and the prospect of default on its debt looming in the near future, Maduro is taking the most serious step yet toward outright dictatorship.

The New York Times published an editorial yesterday about international efforts to address the crisis in Venezuela.

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