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Venezuela high court to take over National Assembly duties

By Andrew V. Pestano
Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Wednesday ruled its Constitutional Hall will take on the responsibilities of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, saying its proceedings have shown "contempt." File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA
Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice on Wednesday ruled its Constitutional Hall will take on the responsibilities of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, saying its proceedings have shown "contempt." File Photo by Miguel Gutierrez/EPA

March 30 (UPI) -- Venezuela's Supreme Tribunal of Justice, or TSJ, has ruled it will assume the full responsibilities of the opposition-controlled National Assembly, citing the legislature's "contempt and invalidity."

At the end of a 20,000-word ruling issued Wednesday related to the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the TSJ said its Constitutional Hall or an agency it chooses will assume the National Assembly's duties.

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"Finally, it is noted that as long as the contempt and invalidity of the proceedings of the National Assembly persists, this Constitutional Chamber will ensure that the parliamentary powers are exercised directly by this Hall or by the body that it designates to watch over the state of law," the TSJ said in the ruling.

The TSJ, which effectively stripped the National Assembly of power in late 2015, has long accused the opposition-controlled unicameral legislative body of being in contempt, saying it oversteps its authority -- primarily citing the opposition's efforts to remove Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro from power.

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Members of the National Assembly called the TSJ's ruling "unconstitutional."

Armando Armas, an opposition National Assembly lawmaker from the Anzoátegui state, said the TSJ's sentence "ratifies that in Venezuela there is a dictatorship."

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"Now the justices also pretend to be deputies. There is no rule of law in the country. There is a constitutional breakdown violating the Constitution," Armas said on Thursday.

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The TSJ said the National Assembly's contempt began in late December after the legislature swore in three members of Venezuela's Democratic Unity Roundtable opposition coalition that the TSJ had suspended, along with one pro-government member, pending an investigation into allegations of electoral fraud.

The removal of the three opposition lawmakers took away the opposition's qualified majority, or supermajority, in the National Assembly. The TSJ and other of Venezuela's government bodies are accused of working in favor of Maduro's socialist regime. Maduro's approval rating is often in the single digits.

The TSJ still did not recognize the National Assembly despite opposition lawmakers yielding by making the suspended opposition members resign in November in an attempt to end the political standoff with Maduro and the TSJ.

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The TSJ also ruled that Maduro is not prohibited from making "joint ventures" between the branches of government and that the National Assembly will not be able to "modify the proposed conditions nor intend to establish other conditions" established by the TSJ in its ruling.

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