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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2017 9:49 am    Post subject: Venezuela headed towards a dictatorship ? Reply with quote

( more troubling news out of this already troubled country , this is what happens when a leftist regime goes bad )

World News | Fri Mar 31, 2017 | 7:51am EDT

Venezuela's Maduro decried as 'dictator' after Congress annulled

By Diego Oré and Andrew Cawthorne | CARACAS

Opposition leaders branded Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro a "dictator" on Thursday after the Supreme Court took over the functions of Congress and pushed a lengthy political standoff to new heights.

There was swift and widespread international condemnation of the de facto annulment of the National Assembly, where the opposition won a majority in late 2015 amid an unprecedented economic crisis that has seen Maduro's popularity plummet.

The head of the 34-nation Organization of International States (OAS), Luis Almagro, said the Venezuelan court had dealt the final blows to democracy and accused Maduro's "regime" of carrying out a "coup."

Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala and Panama expressed strong concerns while Peru withdrew its envoy after what it termed a rupture of democracy.

The United States described the move as a "serious setback for democracy in Venezuela" while the European Union called for a "clear electoral calendar" going forward.

Venezuela's top court had already overturned most National Assembly decisions since the opposition win. Then late on Wednesday, it explicitly stated it was assuming Congress' role in a ruling authorizing Maduro to create oil joint ventures without the previously mandated congressional approval.

"As long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber guarantees congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ," the court said in its ruling.

The contempt charge stems from vote-buying accusations against three lawmakers from southern Amazonas state. Even though they no longer sit in Congress, the court said parliamentary leaders had not handled their case legally.

Critics of Maduro say it is an excuse for him to consolidate power and muzzle the opposition amid a severe recession, soaring inflation and acute shortages of food and medicine.

Maduro, a 54-year-old former bus driver and foreign minister, was narrowly elected in 2013 to replace late leftist President Hugo Chavez. He has accused Washington of leading a push to topple him as part of a wider offensive against leftist governments.

Deputies of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD), clash with Venezuela's National Guards during a protest outside the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) in Caracas, Venezuela March 30, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Related Coverage
OAS head accuses Venezuela's Maduro of 'self-coup'

Stung by the rebukes around Latin America, Maduro's government condemned what it described as a "right-wing regional pact" against it on Thursday.

"We reject the Peruvian government's rude support for the violent and extremist sectors in Venezuela," Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez said in a series of tweets.

Leaders of Venezuela's Democratic Unity opposition coalition renewed their demand for early presidential elections and accused Maduro of duplicating Peruvian leader Alberto Fujimori's notorious 1992 closure of Congress.

"Nicolas Maduro has carried out a 'coup d'etat' ... this is a dictatorship," said National Assembly President Julio Borges, before tearing up a copy of the Supreme Court ruling at a news conference in the gardens of the legislature.

"This is trash from people who have kidnapped the constitution, rights and freedom of Venezuelans ... The National Assembly does not recognize the Supreme Court."


The opposition promised new street protests starting from Saturday - but that tactic has failed in the past despite marches that have drawn hundreds of thousands of protesters.

Last year, the opposition pushed for a referendum to recall Maduro and force a new presidential election, but authorities thwarted them and also postponed local electoral races that were supposed to have been held in 2016.

Maduro's term in office ends in January 2019.

Around a dozen opposition lawmakers trying to march to the Supreme Court on Thursday clashed with National Guard soldiers and pro-government supporters lined up to stop them.

Pockets of youths took to the streets in parts of Caracas and attempted to block a major highway. They held flags and banners saying, "No to dictatorship."

However, numbers were small and they quickly dispersed.

In 2014, a wave of unrest swept the country, leaving more than 40 dead, though now many opposed to the government say they feel protesting is pointless.

"If the international community stays firm, demanding elections, we are sure the government will have to turn back," another opposition leader and two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles said.

Spooked by the opposition's warning that investment deals bypassing Congress would not be valid, foreign oil companies were closely following the political showdown.

As Venezuela tries to raise funds for bond payments and a reeling economy, it has sought to sell stakes in oil fields. State oil company PDVSA recently offered Russia's Rosneft a stake in the Petropiar oil joint venture, sources with knowledge of the proposal told Reuters.

"We want to make perfectly clear to all the oil companies that any strategic alliance (that did not go through Congress) is null," Borges said on Thursday.

While some investors could see the Supreme Court sentence as giving them the green light to invest, others are increasingly worried about Venezuela's murky legal framework.

"There is reasonable doubt about the legality of all this," said a source at a foreign oil company.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2017 9:52 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Venezuela Muzzles Legislature, Moving Closer to One-Man Rule

Leer en español


Amelia Belisario, a deputy of the National Assembly, argued with National Guard members during a protest in front of the Supreme Court in Caracas, Venezuela, on Thursday. Credit Juan Barreto/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

IQUITOS, Peru — Venezuela took its strongest step yet toward one-man rule under the leftist President Nicolás Maduro as his loyalists on the Supreme Court seized power from the National Assembly in a ruling late Wednesday night.

The ruling effectively dissolved the elected legislature, which is led by Mr. Maduro’s opponents, and allows the court to write laws itself, experts said.

The move caps a year in which the last vestiges of Venezuela’s democracy have been torn down, critics and regional leaders say, leaving what many now describe as not just an authoritarian regime, but an outright dictatorship.

“What we have warned of has finally come to pass,” said Luis Almagro, the head of the Organization of American States, a regional diplomacy group that includes Venezuela and is investigating the country for violating the bloc’s Democratic Charter.
Continue reading the main story

Mr. Almagro called the move a “self-inflicted coup,” a term used in Latin America to denote takeovers typical of the 1990s in Guatemala and Peru — but virtually unheard-of in the region today.

Recent months have seen a swift consolidation of power by Mr. Maduro as scores of political prisoners have been detained without trial, protesters violently repressed and local elections postponed. In taking power from the National Assembly, the ruling removed what most consider to be the only remaining counterbalance to the president’s growing power in the country.

The court said that lawmakers were “in a situation of contempt,” and that while that lasted, the justices themselves would step in to “ensure that parliamentary powers were exercised directly by this chamber, or by the body that the chamber chooses.” It did not say whether it might hand power back.

Members of the National Assembly denounced the ruling on Thursday.

“They have kidnapped the Constitution, they have kidnapped our rights, they have kidnapped our liberty,” said Julio Borges, the opposition lawmaker who heads the body, holding a crumpled copy of the ruling before reporters on Thursday.

Oneida Guaipe, an opposition lawmaker from the country’s central coast, said the body would continue to do its work, even if its laws would now be ignored when it produced legislation. “This is demonstrating before the world the authoritarianism here,” she said. “The people chose us through a popular vote.”

The ruling was also a challenge to Venezuela’s neighbors, which met in Washington this week to put pressure on the country to hold elections, and to discuss a possible expulsion of Venezuela from the O.A.S. on the grounds that the country is not democratic.

Last week, the United States, Canada and a dozen of Latin America’s largest nations called for Mr. Maduro to recognize the National Assembly’s powers, a rare joint statement that reflected deep impatience with his government.

We consider it a serious setback for democracy in Venezuela,” the United States State Department said on Thursday of the court decision. Peru withdrew its ambassador in protest.

David Smilde, an analyst from the Washington Office on Latin America, a human rights advocacy group, said it might now be up to Venezuela’s neighbors to encourage the country to hold elections again, given resistance from within the government. “The Maduro government seems to have no intention of respecting the basic elements of electoral democracy,” he said.

Critics say a long litany of other moves by the government are taking a toll on Venezuela’s democracy. Perhaps most visible to Venezuelans was an effort last year to hold a recall referendum against the president, whose popularity is sinking along with the country’s collapsing economy.

While such a referendum was permitted by the country’s Constitution, and highly favored in polls, Mr. Maduro alternatively called the effort illegal or a coup staged by his opponents. In October, a lower court suspended the process on the grounds that there had been irregularities in the gathering of signatures.

Meanwhile, political prisoners continued to be arrested. In January, Mr. Maduro established a new “anti-coup commando” to round up political dissidents accused of treason. The group has taken aim at members of the opposition, arresting many, including a city councilman from central Venezuela and a deputy lawmaker in the National Assembly.

In February, after CNN en Español, the network’s Spanish language channel, broadcast an investigation that linked Venezuela’s vice president to a passport fraud scheme in the Middle East, Mr. Maduro ordered the channel off the air. The government has blocked the Caracas bureau chief of The New York Times from entering the country since October.

But to many, the gradual assault against the National Assembly, more than a year in the making, was the most telling sign of democratic erosion in Venezuela.

“It has come in fragments,” Carlos Ayala Corao, a Venezuelan lawyer and legal analyst, said of the court’s actions against the legislature. “They have been slicing it in pieces.”

The conflicts began in December 2015, when rising grievances about the country’s faltering economy propelled Mr. Maduro’s opposition to win control of the legislature. It was the first time in years that the chamber was not dominated by the movement founded by the former leftist President Hugo Chávez.

Mr. Maduro initially said he accepted the vote. He even appeared before opposition lawmakers to give his annual address on the state of the government in January of last year. But the Supreme Court, packed with loyalists to Mr. Maduro shortly before the National Assembly took power, was chipping away at the chamber’s powers.

It refused to let it seat four lawmakers on the grounds that there had been voting irregularities. That denied the opposition of a supermajority, which would have given it expanded powers over Mr. Maduro. The National Assembly went back and forth on the ruling, but eventually complied.

As the National Assembly began to get to work, it continued to clash with the court. By last spring, the legislature had written laws delivering on campaign promises like one measure to invigorate the economy and another to free more than 100 political prisoners, only to see the court overturn them as unconstitutional.

When Mr. Maduro tried to increase his own powers under a state of emergency that he declared, the legislature rejected the effort. But the court sided with the president. In October, the court stripped the National Assembly of its power to review the annual budget, leaving Mr. Maduro in charge of the country’s purse strings.

More recently, legislators tried to block the president from pursuing oil ventures without their approval. In Wednesday’s ruling stripping the National Assembly of its lawmaking powers, the court said the president had the right to make these oil deals.

It said its ruling was justified by the Assembly’s choice to keep the lawmakers onboard whose elections had been questioned earlier. This act, it said, rendered the Assembly itself invalid.

With few protesters in the streets of Caracas on Thursday, it was unclear what popular support the opposition might get from the public.

Analysts say many Venezuelans feel as dispirited by the opposition as by leftist leaders, given the opposition’s continued defeat by the government. Opposition leaders called for protests on Saturday and in the coming week but have been unable to draw large crowds since last fall.

John Magdaleno, a political consultant, said he expected a wider crackdown against the opposition from Mr. Maduro in coming weeks, and possibly more arrests.

“In my opinion, from now on, there will be growing pressures against lawmakers,” he said, “and it’s probable there will be much greater persecution of political leaders.”


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2017 9:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Venezuelan National Assembly to Seek Removal of Supreme Court Justices

CARACAS – Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly plans this week to start the process of removing the Supreme Court’s justices for trying to assume legislative powers, the legislature’s first vice president, Freddy Guevara, said on Sunday.

“Those magistrates who staged a coup d’etat cannot remain unpunished,” Guevara told the National Assembly from the Federal Legislative Palace, going on to announce that he will launch the process to remove the high court’s jurists from office on Tuesday.

The opposition lawmakers will insist on the removal of the magistrates despite the fact that the high court on Saturday cancelled certain portions of the two controversial rulings whereby it had assumed the functions of the legislature and limited parliamentary immunity from prosecution.

Guevara called upon other opposition lawmakers to show that they are not going “to obey this tyranny.”

He also took advantage of the occasion to applaud the position of Attorney General Luisa Ortega, who called the high court’s decision a “rupture of the constitutional order.”

Guevara did not clarify what the objective or scope of the legislature’s move against the high court justices will be, given that they found the Venezuelan Parliament to be in “contempt” of the court more than a year ago and its actions “null and void.”

Earlier, the head of Parliament, Julio Borges, had accused the magistrates in a television interview of having committed “crimes against humanity,” adding that the Venezuelan judiciary and international judicial bodies were against anyone who attacked the rights of the country’s citizens.

The former head of Parliament, Henry Ramos Allup, also with the political opposition, said on Sunday in a Twitter message that lawmakers will resort to the appropriate disciplinary courts to “revoke ... and expel members” of the “unconstitutional court.”

The Parliament had tried in early 2016 to remove several of the magistrates, arguing that they were named in an improper manner by the Chavismo government, but it was not able to bring that plan to fruition.


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PostPosted: Mon Apr 03, 2017 9:56 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

( president Paduro has apparently asked for the decision to be reversed after the intense criticism , although is still very deep concerns as to whats going on there )

Venezuela walks back move to strip congress’ power

President Nicolas Maduro asked the Supreme Court in a late-night speech to review a ruling nullifying the branch of power that set off a storm of criticism from the opposition and foreign governments

By: AP | Caracas | Updated: April 2, 2017 8:08 am


Opposition members shout slogans against Venezuela’s President Nicolas Maduro during a National Assembly special session in Caracas, Venezuela, Saturday, April 1, 2017.

Venezuela’s president and Supreme Court backed down Saturday from an audacious move to strip congress of its legislative powers that had sparked widespread charges that the South American country was no longer a democracy. (AP Photo/Fernando Llano)

Venezuela’s president and Supreme Court backed down Saturday from an unprecedented move to strip congress of its legislative powers that had sparked widespread charges that the South American country was no longer a democracy.

President Nicolas Maduro asked the Supreme Court in a late-night speech to review a ruling nullifying the branch of power that set off a storm of criticism from the opposition and foreign governments. The court on Saturday reinstated congress’ authority.

It was a rare instance of the embattled socialist president backing away from a move to increase his power. Opposition leaders dismissed the reversal as too little too late. They said the clarification issued by the judges only proved yet again that Maduro controls the courts and there is no longer a real separation of powers in Venezuela.

“The dire situation we’re living through in Venezuela remains the same. There is nothing to “clarify” when it comes to respecting the Constitution,” said moderate leader and former presidential candidate Henrique Capriles.

At the same time, critics celebrated the reversal as proof that cracks are beginning to show in Maduro’s control of a country spiraling into chaos, with his approval ratings dipping below 20 percent amid the worsening economic and humanitarian crisis.

Opposition leaders recast a planned Saturday protest as an open air meeting. Hundreds of supporters joined congress members in a wealthy Caracas neighborhood to celebrate the rare victory.

Later, soldiers fired tear gas on activists who attempted to march on government offices downtown and blocked their path with barricades and armored cars. Some of protesters jumped atop the military vehicles and made triumphant gestures.

“It’s not clear exactly how wounded the government is. This is the first time since the opposition won the National Assembly in 2015 that they have managed to get the president to reverse a decision. So this is huge,” said Javier Corrales, who teaches Latin American politics at Amherst College in Massachusetts.

Saturday’s revision undoes most of the original court decision, but will still allow Maduro to enter into joint oil ventures without congressional approval. Supreme Court president Maikel Moreno met with diplomats in the morning and warned that the court would not “remain passive” in the face of attacks on the country’s right to self-rule.

Maduro issued his instructions to the court after an emergency night meeting of the National Security Council Friday night that was boycotted by congress leaders. The three-hour meeting capped an extraordinary day in which Venezuela’s chief prosecutor and long-time loyalist of the socialist revolution launched by the late President Hugo Chavez broke with the administration and denounced the court ruling. Luisa Ortega said it was her “unavoidable historical duty” as the nation’s top judicial authority to decry what she called a “rupture” of the constitutional order.

That statement, and the internal division that it exposed for the first time, may have been the most damaging moment of the whole episode.

“It was really perhaps the first sign of public dissent within the ranks. And it was huge that Maduro did not trash her. Maduro must have realized that Ortega was not acting alone,” Corrales said.

Images posted on Communications Minister Ernesto Villegas’ Twitter account showed Ortega heading to the government palace on Saturday to meet with Maduro.

Small protests popped up all around the capital beginning at dawn Friday. Troops from the National Guard fired buckshot and swung batons at students protesting in front of the Supreme Court, and several journalists had their cameras seized.

As the country’s currency hemorrhaged value and some analysts began to project the beginning of the end of 18 years of socialist rule in Venezuela, Maduro invited congress president Julio Borges to speak with him about the situation. But Borges refused, breaking a years-long streak in which the opposition ramps up pressure on the administration only to help diffuse it at the last minute by coming to the bargaining table, usually fruitlessly.

“In Venezuela the only dialogue possible is the vote,” Borges said Friday night.

The Supreme Court ruled had late Wednesday that until lawmakers abided by previous rulings that nullified all legislation passed by congress, the high court could assume the constitutionally assigned powers of the National Assembly, which has been controlled by the opposition since it won a landslide victory in elections in late 2015.

The ruling had brought down two days of condemnation by governments across Latin America, along with the United States and the United Nations. Colombia, Chile and Peru withdrew their ambassadors over the ruling.

The South American trade bloc Mercosur, which suspended Venezuela in December, called an emergency meeting. And the Organization of American States announced that it would hold an emergency meeting at its Washington headquarters on Monday to discuss what Secretary General Luis Almagro called a “self-inflicted coup.”

Maduro was conspicuously silent during much of the two days of turmoil. Then on Saturday, dressed in black and waving copy of Venezuelan constitution, likened the international condemnation to a “political lynching.”

He concluded his remarks with a call for more dialogue. “I’m ready with whoever is willing,” he said.

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Venezuela headed towards a dictatorship ?

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