President Nicolas Maduro urged Venezuela’s Supreme Court early Saturday to review a decision stripping congress of its last powers, a ruling that set off a storm of criticism from the opposition and foreign governments.
The announcement came just hours before the opposition hoped to mount big protests against the socialist government, spurred by anger over the ruling.
In an address after a Friday night meeting presided over by Maduro, the National Security Council announced it was supporting a review by the court “with the goal of maintaining institutional stability.”
Opposition sees a ploy
Opposition leaders were quick to condemn the announcement as a ploy that did little to alleviate the crisis.
“Let’s be absolutely clear,” said Freddy Guevara, first vice president of the National Assembly. “A revision of a decision that leaves everything like before doesn’t resolve a coup.”
The three-hour meeting capped an extraordinary day in which Venezuela’s chief prosecutor and long-time loyalist of the socialist government broke with the Maduro administration and denounced the court ruling.
Luisa Ortega Diaz said it was her “unavoidable historical duty” as the nation’s top judicial authority to decry the ruling against the opposition-controlled National Assembly as a “rupture” of the constitutional order.
Maduro convened the National Security Council seeking to calm the political uproar, though at least one key member refused to attend. About a dozen officials were present at the session, but among those notably absent was congress president Julio Borges, who said the meeting was no more than a circus act created for a convenient photo opportunity by the same person the opposition blames for the country’s troubles.
More protests expected
On Friday, troops from the National Guard fired buckshot and swung batons at students protesting in front of the Supreme Court. A few people were arrested and some journalists covering the demonstration had their cameras taken. A few small protests popped up elsewhere in the capital.
Larger demonstrations were expected Saturday in what opposition leaders hoped would be a big turnout to denounce Maduro and call for elections.
“We all have to get out — for the dignity of our country, the dignity of our children and the dignity of Venezuela,” Borges said in urging Venezuelans to join in protests Saturday.
The court’s ruling
The Supreme Court ruled 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.
Friday brought a second day of condemnations of the ruling by the United States and governments across Latin America. The head of the Organization of American States announced that it would hold an emergency meeting at its Washington headquarters Monday to discuss the situation in Venezuela.
Colombia, Chile and Peru withdrew their ambassadors over the ruling. And The South American trade bloc Mercosur, which suspended Venezuela in December, called an emergency meeting for Saturday in Argentina.