Venezuela: Supreme Court backtracks on Congress ruling

President Nicolas Maduro said in a midnight address on state television that the conflict between the Supreme Court and National Assembly had been overcome, but gave no details.

"We were able to achieve a social contract", she said.

"The only Supreme Court I'm focused on right now is ours", Spicer said, referring to the fight in the US Senate to confirm a new Supreme Court justice.

Venezuela's Supreme Court stripped the opposition-controlled Congress of its powers late Wednesday, taking over its legislative responsibilities and heightening tensions in the politically embattled country.

Friday brought a second day of condemnations of the ruling by the United States and governments across Latin America.

That galvanized Venezuela's demoralized and divided opposition coalition and brought a torrent of global condemnation and concern ranging from the United Nations and European Union to most major Latin American countries.

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. They are furious that authorities thwarted a push for a referendum to recall Maduro previous year and postponed local elections scheduled for 2016.

The normally ever-present Maduro was conspicuously silent during much of the two days of turmoil, but then he went on state TV to argue that Venezuela's institutions are operating normally.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro called an emergency meeting to discuss the crisis after two previous sessions this week ended with 20 governments led by the US and Mexico voicing deep concern but no concrete actions to hold Maduro accountable.

"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.

On Friday, members of Maduro's political opposition applauded Ortega's remarks.

National Assembly president Julio Borges said he would not attend, likening Maduro's invitation to a circus act put on by the same person the opposition blames for Venezuela's crisis.

Protests erupted on the street and in the halls of government.

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.

But a court spokesman said there was nothing official yet and its web site where rulings are posted appeared to have crashed. The fall in oil prices since mid-2014 has exacerbated the crisis.

"Peru has contributed the most, because it has been very clear", said Jorge Castaneda, Mexico's foreign minister under former President Vicente Fox, who broke with traditional Mexican foreign policy to take a tough stance against Cuba.

In the past, he has been reluctant to criticize Maduro, fearing a backlash against the millions of Colombians who live in Venezuela and in recent months have been flocking home in the face of the worsening economic crisis.

The OAS leader called it "the final blows with which the regime subverts the constitutional order of the country and finishes off democracy". Its two other meetings this past week ended with 20 governments led by the USA and Mexico voicing deep concern but no concrete actions to hold Maduro accountable.

One opposition lawmaker said he was attacked three times by police using pepper spray. A few people were arrested and some journalists covering the demonstration had their cameras taken.

Anti-government protesters have staged daily protests against the move.

(AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos). 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.

Some said they anxious that while Maduro has so far insisted on meeting foreign bond payments amid the economic collapse, a further escalation of the crisis may erode that determination.

  • Leroy Wright