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Venezuela's Supreme Court reverses ruling to seize legislative power from congress

The Venezuelan Supreme Court has said it is abandoning measures to take power from the opposition-controlled chamber. Critics had condemned the move as a lurch towards dictatorship.

Venezuela's top court on Saturday reversed a decision to seize power from the opposition-controlled congress, after it drew widespread international condemnation and street protests.

The Supreme Court said in a ruling published on its website that it annulled its own ruling made on March 29 to take legislative powers from congress after the decision drew concern the oil-rich country was heading towards dictatorship under leftist President Nicolas Maduro.

It also ruled to reverse a decision to lift parliamentary immunity.

Watch video 02:22

DW correspondent Oscar Schlenker in the Venezuelan capital Caracas on the Supreme Court's latest decision

The new ruling came after Maduro urged the court to review the decision following a state security meeting earlier on Saturday.

The opposition and the head of the regional Organization of American States had likened Wednesday's decision by the Maduro-allied court to a "coup." The court's decision also drew criticism from the United States, the European Union, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Chile and Colombia.

Saturday's court decision marked a rare U-turn for the Socialist president, who appeared to have overplayed his hand as he seeks to consolidate power. Even the Maduro-allied attorney general, Luisa Ortega, spoke up against taking power from congress as a "rupture of constitutional order."

It came as the opposition called for major protests on Saturday.

Opposition leaders said the court's reversal was further proof the legal system is in Maduro's hands.

"You can't pretend to just normalize the nation after carrying out a coup," said Julio Borges, leader of the National Assembly legislature. Earlier in the week he had torn up the court ruling at a press conference and vowed to ignore it.

Venezuela | Julio Borges zerreisst Dokumente des Obersten Gerichtshof (picture-alliance/AP Photo/A. Cubillos)

Borges tore up a copy of the Supreme Court ruling earlier this week.

In Wednesday's ruling, the Supreme Court said that lawmakers were in contempt of court for not abiding by past rulings nullifying legislation coming out the National Assembly, and that the court would seize congressional powers.

The Supreme Court has already overturned most National Assembly decisions and stripped it of power since the opposition won elections in December 2015. Repeated efforts by the opposition to force a recall referendum and new elections before Maduro's term ends in 2019 have also been stymied by the court and the electoral commission.

For more than a year, Maduro has been ruling largely by emergency decree in response to an economic crisis that has caused that concern the country could implode, creating a larger regional security and humanitarian crisis.

cw/xx (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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