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Venezuela high court voids parliament vote to oust Maduro, hold elections

By
Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Monday ruled void a National Assembly measure in which the legislature sought to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power by declaring he abandoned his post. File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency
Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Monday ruled void a National Assembly measure in which the legislature sought to remove President Nicolas Maduro from power by declaring he "abandoned his post." File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/European Pressphoto Agency

CARACAS, Venezuela, Jan. 10 (UPI) -- Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice has annulled a National Assembly vote in which the legislature declared President Nicolas Maduro "abandoned his post" in an attempt to remove him from power.

Citing an article in Venezuela's Constitution stipulating the president "shall become permanently unavailable to serve" in case of the "abandonment of his position," the opposition-controlled unicameral parliament on Monday voted in a majority to oust Maduro and to hold elections.

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The National Assembly's vote was expected to be largely ceremonial. Late Monday, the high court, or TSJ annulled the parliament measure, stating it was outside of parliamentary jurisdiction.

"In recent days, some of the country's political spokesmen have publicly stated the possibility of declaring, by agreement of the majority of deputies of the National Assembly, the alleged 'abandonment of the office' of" Maduro, the TSJ said in a statement, ruling void the measure by citing a decree issued in November ordering National Assembly members to "refrain from continuing the procedure of declaring 'political trial' against the president of the republic and, in short, to dictate any type of act that is outside its constitutional attributions."

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The TSJ said National Assembly members are prohibited from "acts that disturb public order, instigate against authorities ... as well as other actions outside the constitutional rights and legal order."

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The TSJ also said it "calls for the use of dialogue as a fundamental tool to resolve political differences and, especially, to fulfill constitutional duties and purposes."

Last year, the TSJ gutted the opposition's efforts to hold a recall referendum in which citizens would be asked whether Maduro should be removed from power.

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Maduro's approval ratings often dip into the single digits, meaning his removal through a recall could be likely.

"The National Assembly decision seeks to give course to what more than 80 percent of Venezuelans want: Elections for all! Solution to the crisis!" Henrique Capriles Radonski, governor of Venezuela's Miranda state and a key opposition leader, said in a statement on Monday.

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