Venezuela walks back move to strip congress' power

Venezuela's Supreme Court restored powers to the country's legislature amid increasing domestic and global accusations that President Nicolas Maduro and the allied court were consolidating power.

The court on Saturday, reinstated congress; authority.

The country's top court had on March 29 stripped legislative powers from the National Assembly, the sole institution that was not in control of the current government, which triggered a cascade of protests across the country and invited global censure.

"They only want to make it look like they reversed their ruling", National Assembly President Julio Borges said, addressing the crowd of protesters, insisting Maduro had carried out a "coup" against democracy.

Opposition groups went ahead with planned street rallies in Caracas on Saturday.

The committee ordered the top court to reconsider Wednesday's court ruling, which effectively nullified the legislature and brought accusations the ruling Socialist Party was creating a dictatorship.

Although scores of dissidents have been detained during Maduro's four-year rule and the National Assembly stripped of power anyway in practice, the court's move was arguably the most explicitly anti-democratic measure.

That galvanized Venezuela's demoralised and divided opposition coalition and brought a torrent of worldwide condemnation from the United States, the European Union, Spain, Germany and a host of Latin American countries.

Several opposition lawmakers who tried to enter the Supreme Court building Thursday afternoon were blocked by soldiers in riot gear and manhandled by government supporters shouting "get out". "Now they are going back on that, but this is still a dictatorship". And the Organization of American States announced that it would hold an emergency meeting at its Washington headquarters Monday to discuss what Secretary General Luis Almagro called a "self-inflicted coup".

The court had also undermined lawmakers' powers by exposing them to potential prosecutions.

Maduro accuses the United States of orchestrating a campaign to oust him and said he had been subject this week to a "political, media and diplomatic lynching".

While opponents viewed the top court's ruling as a "coup d'etat", the most stinging of criticisms came from the country's attorney general on April 1.

In a statement read before representatives of the diplomatic corps, Moreno said the court recognizes assembly "immunity as a guarantee of legislative activity, with limitations" set by the constitution.

Given past failures of opposition street protests, it is unlikely there will be mass support for a new wave.

"The dire situation we're living through in Venezuela remains the same".

"The former bus driver, foreign minister and self-declared "son" of Chavez, was narrowly elected president in 2013".

But his ratings have plummeted to just over 20 percent as Venezuelans struggle with a fourth year of recession, scarcities of food and medicines and the highest inflation in the world.

Still, Maduro also called for renewed dialogue between the government and the opposition, saying that is the only path to resolving Venezuela's political crisis.

Critics blame a failing socialist system, whereas the government says its enemies are waging an "economic war".

The OPEC nation urgently needs to raise money from oil partners to pay $3 billion in bond maturities due this month, analysts and sources say.

  • Leroy Wright