In a move rejected throughout the region and decried as a “coup” by the opposition, Venezuela’s Supreme Court effectively shut down congress, saying it would assume all legislative functions amid its contention that legislators are operating outside of the law. The decision will undoubtedly increase tensions in the South American nation where the opposition-controlled congress was seen as a last bastion of dissent. The move is also a slap at the international community, which just this week was pressing the socialist administration to respect the role of the legislature and to hold new elections. As news spread about the ruling, condemnation was swift. Organization of American States Secretary General Luis Almagro said it was tantamount to a “self-inflicted coup” and called for an emergency meeting of the permanent council. Peru broke off diplomatic relations, and the United States, Mexico and Colombia condemned the move.
In a ruling published late Wednesday, the Supreme Court said that because the National Assembly continued to defy previous court rulings, all of the assembly’s actions were deemed “invalid” and that “the activities of the parliament would be exercised directly by [this court].”
The ruling essentially dissolves congress at a time when it was trying to push back against President Nicolás Maduro and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela, or PSUV, which control virtually all the levers of power.
The opposition Voluntad Popular party called the move a “clear coup against our constitution and the National Assembly, which was elected by more than 15 million Venezuelans.”