Venezuela top court to assume congress role; opposition decries 'dictatorship'

Venezuela's Supreme Court said it would take over the opposition-led Congress's role because the legislature is in "contempt," sparking accusations that President Nicolas Maduro's administration is becoming a dictatorship.

While the pro-Maduro court has annulled many of the National Assembly's decisions since the opposition won a majority in late 2015, it had not directly taken over functions.

"We warn that as long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber guarantees that congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ," the court said in a ruling.

The Democratic Unity umbrella opposition organization slammed the Supreme Court's decision on Thursday, with several lawmakers accusing Maduro of acting like a dictator.

"This unconstitutional sentence that we reject ... cements another step in the dismantling of Venezuela's democracy," the opposition said in a statement. "This government is dying, and that's why it's turning to these desperate measures."

Opposition lawmaker Henry Ramos Allup bitterly condemned the ruling. "This is a fraudulent court whose interpretations of the constitution violate the document itself," he said in a radio interview. "We must continue doing our jobs despite the risk, because no one person gave us our titles as lawmakers. We were elected by the people."