Stacked supreme court assumes all legislative powers in Venezuela

The Venezuelan supreme court’s decision to take control of the opposition-controlled legislature has set off a flurry of outrage and condemnation from much of Latin America, including Costa Rica, and the United States.

The decision by the Tribunal Supremo de Justicia, the official name for the high court, came late Wednesday night in what many lawmakers and citizens see as another move by Nicolás Maduro and the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela to consolidate their already-firm grip over the country.

Costa Rica’s foreign ministry released a statement Thursday afternoon condemning these actions and calling the decisions inadmissible and contrary to the essence of democracy. The ministry also called for a multilateral solution under the umbrella of the Organization of American States to resolve this issue.

Meanwhile, for some Venezuelan nationals, the regime’s newest move seems more like business as usual. “It’s not a surprise. We’ve been in a dictatorial state since 1999,” Klaus Bengochea said bitterly in response to the court’s decision.

He is referring to the year in which Maduro’s predecessor Hugo Chávez was popularly elected and remained head of state until 2013. Bengochea is a Venezuelan national here in Costa Rica. According to his own testimony, he was jailed and beaten by police in Venezuela for his assistance to opposition protesters during his time there and remains an opponent to the current regime.

The secretary general of the organization, Luis Almagro, denounced what he called a “self-inflicted coup d’état perpetrated by the Venezuelan regime against the National Assembly, the last branch of government to be legitimized by the will of the people of Venezuela.”

The court issued two decisions which strip parliamentary immunity from members of the national assembly and provide 

for the court to assume the legislative function, according to the Organization of American States.

The main decision declared all legislation passed by the national assembly unconstitutional, calling support for the Inter-American Democratic Charter a treasonous act, the organization said. Venezuela was also ironically the first country to invoke the charter back in 2002.

The U.S. State Department officially condemned the court for its decision to usurp the powers of the democratically elected national assembly calling the move a serious setback for democracy.

Perú pulled its ambassador Thursday in protest, and countries including México, Colombia, Argentina and Chile also denounced Venezuela’s high court.

Almagro called an emergency session of the organization’s Permanent Council saying that: “The restoration of democracy is an obligation we all share. It is time for the hemisphere to work together to help restore democracy in Venezuela. We have an obligation to the people of Venezuela to act without further delay. To be silent in the face of a dictatorship is the lowest indignity in politics.”

Almagro had earlier called the organization to suspend Venezuela from the group back in mid-March due to a  glowering and increased amount of human rights violations such as suppression of the free press, arresting of political opposition and a court packing of the judiciary that led to this recent decision.

That is not withstanding Venezuela facing numerous shortages in food and medicine due to the economy spiraling downward from drops in oil prices and demands.

It remains to be seen how some Latin American countries proceed in suspending the country from the group. Many of those countries, such as Cuba and the Dominican Republic, rely on Venezuela in the form of subsidized oil.

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