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Maduro urges Supreme Court to reconsider ruling

April 1, 2017

Venezuela's Supreme Court should rethink a decision it made this week to strip Congress of its power, President Nicolas Maduro has said. His statement came ahead of planned protests across Venezuela.

Venezuela Proteste gegen Staatsstreich
Image: picture-alliance/ZUMAPRESS.com/J. C. Hernandez

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro urged called on the country's Supreme Court on Saturday to review a decision stripping Congress of its legislative powers. The country's Defense Council made a similar plea on Friday.

Maduro's announcement came just hours before the opposition hoped to mount big protests against the socialist government, spurred by anger over the ruling.

The court ruling annuling the opposition-led Congress set off a storm of criticism from the opposition and foreign governments.

Venezuelans are now trying to determine which of Maduro's statements to give credit to. Earlier on Friday, he had appeared on TV to tell the public that Venezuela's institutions were operating normally and that it was "right-wing, fascist" opponents who were trying to disrupt constitutional order.

Chief prosecutor opposes Supreme Court

In a rare move, Venezuela's chief prosecutor Luisa Ortega Diaz rebuked the Supreme Court's decision. As the nation's top judicial authority, Diaz said it was her "unavoidable historical duty" to denounce what she described as a "rupture" of the constitutional order.

"We call for reflection so that the democratic path can be retaken," she said, highlighting the strongest sign of division in the government since its standoff with the center-right opposition began in January last year.

The statement from the long-time government loyalist came as a major boost to Venezuela's opposition.

Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro said his "right-wing, fascist" opponents were attempting to break the constitutional orderImage: Reuters/Miraflores Palace

Maduro responded to Ortega in his speech by vowing to resolve the impasse" between the attorney general and the court "through dialogue and the constitution."

He also said he had called a meeting of security chiefs to "deliberate and draw up a resolution."

Fears of dictatorship

The Supreme Court's decision has also been met with a torrent of international condemnation over what many have decried as a major step toward dictatorship.

 "This clearly destroys the most important pillar of any democracy, which is popular representation," said President Juan Manuel Santos of neighboring Colombia.

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

In the US, the Trump administration also strongly criticized the Supreme Court's move and called on Maduro to free political prisoners. German government spokesman Steffen Seibert urged the country to "return to democratic principles and the separation of powers."

Anti-government protests

Opposing the ruling, scores of Maduro's opponents blocked a highway in the capital, Caracas, on Friday.

The demonstrations were the start of what activists said will be rolling street protests against the ruling Socialists.

Small groups of protesters blocked roads, unfurled banners and chanted slogans against Maduro's government, including "Freedom!" and "No to Dictatorship!"

Weeks of unrest in 2014 left more than 40 people dead and dozens arrested, while a mass protest last September was followed a few days later by authorities canceling a recall petition campaign seeking to force Maduro from office before his term ends in 2019.

ksb/sms (AFP, Reuters)

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