Fri, Apr 07, 2017 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela opposition accuses judges of coup

AFP, CARACAS

Students opposing Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro throw stones at riot police during a protest in San Cristobal on Wednesday.

Photo: AFP

Venezuelan opposition lawmakers on Wednesday launched efforts to fire judges whom they accuse of mounting a judicial “coup” to keep Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro in power.

The deputies’ effort looked unlikely to prosper since the decision to remove the judges depends on other state institutions loyal to the government.

The opposition accused the judges of last week attempting a “coup d’etat.”

The court had issued rulings transferring the assembly’s legislative powers to the court and revoking lawmakers’ immunity from prosecution.

The judges later reversed the rulings after an international outcry.

“They have carried out an ongoing internal coup,” senior opposition deputy Henry Ramos Allup told the assembly. “We have to escape from it by civil protests, exercising our constitutional functions and not giving in to a failed, outlaw government.”

Despite revoking last week’s judgements, the judges kept in force a series of other rulings that restrict the assembly’s powers.

The Venezuelan Supreme Court has consistently overruled the Venezuelan National Assembly legislature since the opposition majority took its seats in January last year.

Maduro is resisting opposition efforts to hold a vote on removing him from power.

The opposition blames him for Venezuela’s economic crisis, while he blames a capitalist conspiracy.

The collapse in energy prices has sapped the country’s revenues, prompting shortages of food, medicine and basic goods along with a surge in violent crime.

Elsewhere, protesters and riot police clashed with students demonstrating against the court rulings, reporters said.

Clashes broke out on Wednesday in the western city of San Cristobal, scene of deadly riots and looting last year.

Last week’s rulings drew concern from the US and Europe, as well as from Latin American powers.

On Wednesday, the European Parliament in Strasbourg debated the situation in Venezuela.

Deputies from the European People’s Party called for a tougher line on Maduro.

They demanded that Maduro release political prisoners and ensure humanitarian aid to those suffering in the crisis.

In an address to the parliament, EU Commissioner for Justice Vera Jourova reiterated the bloc’s call for timely elections in Venezuela and respect for the assembly’s role.

The Organization of American States (OAS) on Tuesday issued a resolution denouncing the court’s moves as gravely unconstitutional.

OAS Secretary-General Luis Almagro has been pressing for the group’s members to suspend Venezuela.

Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Delcy Rodriguez on Wednesday hit back at a meeting of the OAS council, rejecting the declaration as a “fraud.”

“Get your hands off Venezuela once and for all,” Rodriguez told Almagro.

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