Venezuelan court reverses move to strip National Assembly of power

Venezuela's chief prosecutor broke with the government Friday and rebuked a Supreme Court decision stripping congress of its last vestiges of power, showing a crack in the embattled administration of socialist President Nicolas Maduro amid a torrent of global condemnation over what many decried as a major step toward dictatorship.

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro promised on Friday to resolve within hours a controversy over the judiciary's annulment of congress which has sparked opposition protests and condemnation from around the world.

The secretary-general of the Organization of American States (OAS) has called for an urgent meeting of its member states, and the governments of Mexico, Colombia, Argentina, Peru and Chile criticized the ruling.

Luisa Ortega Diaz said it was her "unavoidable historical duty" as the nation's senior judicial authority to condemn the ruling against the opposition-controlled National Assembly as a "rupture" of the constitutional order.

The nation's supreme court, which earlier in the week issued a pair of rulings that essentially stripped the nation's legislative branch of its powers, issued several clarifications on its website on Saturday.

Venezuela took its strongest step yet toward one-man rule under the leftist President Nicolás Maduro as his loyalists on the Supreme Court seized power from the National Assembly in a ruling late Wednesday night.

The ruling, misrepresented in worldwide media as a move to dissolve the parliament, sparked a firestorm of criticism from the opposition as well as right-wing neighboring governments, with Peru and Colombia recalling their ambassadors.

Venezuela's Supreme Court Saturday reversed a controversial decision that stripped congress of all its powers, as worldwide pressure built against the socialist administration.

Earlier this month, US President Donald Trump met with the wife of one of the country's most high-profile political prisoners, Leopoldo López, and called on Maduro to release him "immediately".

"And now they're eliminating a basic constitutional institution".

Opposition leaders, long-marginalized during the past 17 years of socialist rule, called on other public officials to follow Ortega Diaz's example.

Worldwide 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.

There has been no word yet from opposition politicians upset by the court's move, including Borges.

The president "is responsible for the rupture in constitutional order", Borges said, and now can not "pretend to be a mediator".

Hundreds of thousands marched past year, but authorities still thwarted the opposition's push for a referendum to recall Mr Maduro, and also postponed local elections.

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. Chile's left-of-centre president, who has been reluctant to openly criticise Maduro, said she was deeply anxious by the ruling and also ordered her ambassador to return home for consultations.

OAS head Luis Almagro, whom the Venezuelan government views as a pawn of Washington, has been pushing for its suspension from the 34-nation regional bloc, which has announced an extraordinary meeting for Monday to debate Venezuela.

"I am anxious about these actions", Ortega said.

Opposition legislators called Wednesday's ruling a "coup d'etat", saying they disavowed it and would rebel against it by continuing to carry out their work.

Larger demonstrations are expected on Saturday in what opposition leaders hope will be a big turnout to denounce Mr Maduro and call for elections.

  • Leroy Wright