Venezuelan court reverses 'judicial coup'

Venezuelan court reverses 'judicial coup'

A demonstrator wearing chains protests in Caracas against a Supreme Court ruling, later reversed, to assume the legislative decision-making powers of the National Assembly. (EPA Photo)

CARACAS: Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Saturday reversed its move to strip congress of its legislative powers, as embattled President Nicolas Maduro acknowledged the deepening conflict in the country.

Maduro had asked the court in a late-night speech on Friday to review its ruling nullifying the lawmaking body after that decision set off a storm of criticism from the opposition and foreign governments.

The court on Saturday released new rulings that appeared to reinstate the authority of congress.

It was a rare instance of the beleaguered socialist president backing away from a move that would have increased his power.

The court said in a ruling published on its website that it was revoking a March 29 decision to take over legislative powers from the National Assembly, a move opponents had branded a “judicial coup d’etat”.

It also revoked an earlier ruling that stripped lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution.

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

“We have reached an important agreement to solve this controversy,” Maduro said.

The president faced the strongest criticism ever from within his own camp when Attorney General Luisa Ortega condemned Wednesday’s Supreme Court rulings strengthening the president’s grip on the levers of power.

The court decisions neutralised the opposition-majority National Assembly and revoked lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution.

Ortega called them a “rupture of constitutional order”. 

Maduro’s opponents had called on Venezuelans to take to the streets on Saturday and urged the army to abandon him.

It remained uncertain early Saturday local time whether protests would go ahead and what the next manoeuvres in the more than year-long political standoff would be.

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