Venezuela crisis casts shadow over Ecuador presidential election

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Venezuela’s pro-government Supreme Court on Saturday revoked its controversial annulment of the opposition-led Congress amid global condemnation and protests against socialist President Nicolas Maduro.

Following days of political turmoil, Venezuela’s opposition lawmakers demanded on Sunday the dismissal of the seven Supreme Court judges who issued a ruling stripping legislative power from the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

President Nicolas Maduro asked the apex court in a late-night speech on Saturday to review the ruling that sparked a crisis, Xinhua news agency reported.

Rather than properly removing the lawmakers to swiftly remedy the stalemate – which has led the Supreme Court to declare all National Assembly decisions null for months – since taking sweeping control of the Assembly in January 2016, the majority opposition parliament has largely focused on attempts to remove Maduro from office.

At a gathering of legislators in Caracas, opposition congressional leader Stalin Gonzalez said the assembly should move to suspend the judges.

Maduro shot back at the opposition’s claims, accusing them of being beholden to Western geopolitical interests who have long wanted to see the socialist leader ousted from power. “Since then”, reported Bloomberg, “the Supreme Court, largely loyal to [the] Maduro government, has curbed congress’s powers and overturned nearly every piece of legislation passed”.

The reversal on Saturday came after political leaders worldwide and street protesters at home accused the pro-government court of effectively making Maduro a dictator.

Archbishop Diego Padron, the president of the episcopal conference, went further.

Maduro had earlier hinted at the coming announcement in a televised address, hours after his own attorney general broke ranks to condemn the court rulings.

“This clearly constitutes a milestone in recent political Venezuelan history”, said Angel Alvarez, a political consultant.

While the move by the opposition-led congress would only be symbolic because it remains powerless, it could add to pressure on unpopular president Nicolas Maduro as he tries to defuse the furor over what critics saw as a lurch into dictatorship. Judge Moreno said the court had also reversed a decision to strip lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution.

The hemispheric Organization of American States had a special session scheduled for Monday in Washington.

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. The president of Venezuela’s National Assembly Julio Borges dismissed the court’s gesture and told reporters that nothing had changed and the coup continued. The decision by the court represented “a rupture in the constitutional order”, Ortega said. It was denounced as a “self-inflicted coup” and the final blow to Venezuelan democracy.

“Venezuela is arguably the only real failed state in Latin America, but its geopolitical irrelevance have made its crisis a moot point”, said Kenneth Rapoza on Forbes.com.

But the court has since overturned every law passed by the current legislature. Some urged the military, the traditional arbiter of political disputes in Venezuela, to defend the constitution drafted by late President Hugo Chavez.

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OAS chief Luis Almagro has strongly criticized the Maduro government in the past.

Venezuela leader urges court to review ruling on congress

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