Venezuela Supreme Court declares congress decisions void

Reuters News
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Posted: Jan 11, 2016 5:54 PM

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the new National Assembly's decisions are void until three banned opposition lawmakers are removed from office, deepening a power struggle over the opposition's new legislative majority.

The Supreme Court in December blocked four lawmakers - three from the opposition and one allied with the government - from taking office after the Socialist Party alleged irregularities during last month's vote for a new congress.

The opposition dubbed the ruling a "judicial coup" meant to strip it of its super majority and swore in the three barred opposition lawmakers last week, one of a number of tussles between the newly convened congress and the court.

"Decisions taken or to be taken by the National Assembly while these citizens are incorporated will be absolutely null," the court said in a statement on Monday.

The four legislators are all from the rural and sparsely populated southwestern state of Amazonas.

"The logical, sane and democratic step is for the National Assembly's leadership to revoke the swearing-in of these lawmakers," said Socialist Party No. 2 and former National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello.

"If the National Assembly is in contempt, nobody is going to recognize it."

The legislature was to sit on Tuesday, and the opposition bloc was planning to table an amnesty law for jailed activists, and government legislators intended to propose a declaration of "national emergency" over the economic crisis.

Venezuela's Supreme Court has almost always ruled in favor of the government during the last 17 years of socialist rule under President Nicolas Maduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez.

(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer, Brian Ellsworth; Writing by Girish Gupta; Editing by Andrew Cawthorne and Dan Grebler)