Venezuela: Ruling sparks protests

A woman wears a banner over her mouth with a message that reads in Spanish: "Venezuela lives in a dictatorship" during a protest, in Caracas, Venezuela, Friday, March 31, 2017. Venezuelans have been thrust into a new round.

Al Jazeera's Alessandro Rampietti, reporting from Cucuta on the Venezuela-Colombia border, said: "Maduro was trying to cast himself as a stateman, trying to resolve a power conflict in the country, but the opposition says he was just rolling back after there were so many protests inside the country and internationally for a decision that was seen as crossing a line and changing the constitution".

Earlier in the day, Maduro said the controversy between the Venezuelan Supreme Court and the country's National Assembly had been overcome.

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - President Nicolas Maduro urged Venezuela's Supreme Court early Saturday to review a decision stripping congress of its last powers, a ruling that set off a storm of criticism from the opposition and foreign governments.

Opposition leaders sought to galvanize their case against the Maduro government and said the government's apparent reversal of the court ruling would not alter their plans.

It was a rare instance of the embattled socialist president backing away from a move to increase his power. The opposition called the move a coup. "Considering these events, we can not remain indifferent", said Pena Nieto. "There is nothing to "clarify" when it comes to respecting the Constitution", said moderate leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

Still, Russia is becoming an increasingly crucial financier for isolated Maduro at a time when many other foreign companies were already reluctant to pour money into Venezuela given the poor business climate and debts.

Maduro says he will assume personal responsibility for resolving any dispute among the government's different institutions and has called for an emergency meeting of the national defense council Friday night to discuss the impasse. He said be council was supporting a review by the court "with the goal of maintaining institutional stability".

"April is starting on a good step!"

Maduro has yet to comment on the decision but there are signs that at least some top officials are in disagreement.

The court's move means the three branches of the Venezuelan government will be controlled by the ruling United Socialist Party.

In a shocking pronouncement, long-time government loyalist Luisa Ortega Diaz said it was her "unavoidable historical duty" as the nation's top judicial authority to denounce what she called a "rupture" of the constitutional order.

Small protests popped up all around the capital beginning at dawn Saturday. Several protesters were arrested and some journalists had their cameras seized.

New court president Maikel Moreno had called a news conference late afternoon, but it was swiftly cancelled, with Maduro taking to state airwaves instead to address a technology conference. But Borges has refused, breaking a years-long streak in which the opposition ramps up pressure on the administration only to help diffuse it at the last minute by coming to the bargaining table, usually fruitlessly.

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 worldwide media.

On Saturday, the National Assembly planned an open-air meeting in Caracas, while South America's UNASUR bloc was to meet in Argentina with most of its members unhappy at Venezuela.

Even before this week's events, OAS head Luis Almagro had been pushing for Venezuela's suspension, but he is unlikely to garner the two-thirds support needed in the 34-nation block despite hardening sentiment towards Mr Maduro around the region.

Maduro was conspicuously silent during much of the two days of turmoil.

  • Leroy Wright