Germany accuses Maduro of holding Venezuelans 'hostage'

Venezuela's Supreme Court, which was stacked by the government of President Nicolas Maduro, has taken away the remaining powers of congress, prompting widespread worldwide criticism.

Venezuela's Attorney General Luisa Ortega Diaz on Friday rejected the prospect of foreign intervention, as the country's political crisis deepened.

Global condemnation poured in after the high court's decision late Wednesday, which effectively dissolved the legislature and tightened socialist President Nicolas Maduro's grip on power.

The high court a year ago issued an order automatically nullifying all legislation coming out of the National Assembly, and earlier this week it moved to limit lawmakers' immunity from prosecution.

Opponents of Maduro branded the move part of an attempt to install a dictatorship in the country and called on the Army to intervene as tensions rose even higher in the troubled nation.

While opponents of the Bolivarian government have often trumpeted claims of lack of separation of powers in the South American nation, the Venezuelan leader responded that he knew nothing of either the statement by Ortega, nor the court decision Wednesday.

He vowed "through dialogue and the constitution, to resolve the impasse" between the attorney general and the court. "It is time to obey conscience, values, it is time for the country's head to be the Constitution", said Borges.

Street protests erupted for a second day Friday in Caracas.

In Caracas, national guardsmen in riot gear fired buckshot and swung batons at a small group of students who gathered early outside the Supreme Court, the Associated Press reported.

Some protesters also briefly blocked highways in the capital, holding banners reading: "No To Dictatorship". Several protesters were arrested and some journalists had their cameras seized.

The move is the latest example of the socialist President Maduro tightening his grip on power, which critics say he has been doing for months, amid a deepening economic crisis in the country.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro called for the regional organization's permanent council to hold crisis talks on the situation.

There was swift global condemnation of the de facto annulment of the National Assembly, where the opposition won a majority in late 2015 amid an unprecedented economic crisis that has seen Maduro's popularity plummet.

But the court has overturned every law passed by the current legislature.

Venezuela has the world's biggest oil reserves, but the collapse in prices has sapped its revenues, prompting shortages of food, medicine and basic goods.

The opposition is hoping the military - whose top ranks still pledge absolute loyalty to Maduro though there is believed to be dissent lower down - may nudge him into bringing forward a presidential election slated for the end of 2018.

Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos has tried to remain a cordial relationship with Venezuela ever since he took office in 2010, in spite of multiple provocations his Venezuelan counterparts.

"It constitutes a rupture of the constitutional order". "I urge regional leaders to unite, both with words and action, to condemn Maduro's systemic drive to squash all opposition". Today there were protests in the street opposing what many are calling a "coup" and the beginning of a true dictatorship.

"We have to come out and defend democracy", said Sara Ramirez, 68, a building porter, waiting in line.

  • Larry Hoffman