Venezuela president, Supreme Court walk back move to strip congress of power

Venezuela's president and Supreme Court backed down Saturday from an unprecedented move to strip congress of its legislative powers that had sparked widespread charges that the South American country was no longer a democracy.


It was a rare instance of the embattled socialist president backing away from a move to increase his power. Opposition leaders dismissed the reversal as too little too late. They said the clarification issued by the judges only proved yet again that Venezuela President Nicolás Maduro controls the courts and there is no longer a real separation of powers in Venezuela.

Saturday's revision undoes most of the original court decision, but will still allow Maduro to enter into joint oil ventures without congressional approval.

Venezuela's chief prosecutor and long-time loyalist of the socialist regime broke with the administration and denounced the court ruling. Luisa Ortega said it was her "unavoidable historical duty" as the nation's top judicial authority to decry what she called a "rupture" of the constitutional order. That statement exposed internal division within the government for the first time.

Congress president Julio Borges was invited by Maduro to speak to him about the situation, which he refused. "In Venezuela the only dialogue possible is the vote," Borges said Friday night.

The ruling had brought down two days of condemnation by governments across Latin America, along with the United States and the United Nations. Colombia, Chile and Peru withdrew their ambassadors over the ruling and regional blocs, such as Mercosur and the Organization of American States announced they would hold emergency meetings to discuss the crisis in Venezuela.