In Brief

Venezuela moves closer to dictatorship

Opposition claim coup after pro-Nicolas Maduro Supreme Court takes over powers of opposition-controlled congress

Venezuela's Supreme Court has dissolved the opposition-controlled National Assembly and taken over its powers, bringing the country a step further towards one-man rule under President Nicolas Maduro.

"The ruling effectively means the three branches of the Venezuelan government will be controlled by the ruling United Socialist Party," says CNN. "The opposition has been taken out of the picture."

Opposition politicians said it was a step towards dictatorship.

Julio Borges, president of the national assembly, said: "Nicolas Maduro has staged a coup d'etat. It's one thing to try and build a dictatorship and another to complete the circuit."

He added that "for the first time" Maduro "has all the power to enact laws, assign contracts, incur foreign debt and persecute fellow Venezuelans". 

In response, Peru has recalled its ambassador to Caracas, saying it will increase efforts to have Venezuela removed from the Organisation of American States for what it called a "flagrant breach of democratic order".

The US also condemned what it described as a move to "usurp the powers" of the national assembly.

"This rupture of democratic and constitutional norms greatly damages Venezuela’s democratic institutions and denies the Venezuelan people the right to shape their country’s future through their elected representatives. We consider it a serious setback for democracy in Venezuela," said the US State Department.

The move "caps a year in which the last vestiges of Venezuela's democracy have been torn down… leaving what many now describe as not just an authoritarian regime, but an outright dictatorship", the New York Times says.

Maduro lost control of congress in December 2015, after voters "angry about soaring inflation, rising poverty and shortages of medicines and basic commodities" turned on his United Socialist Party of Venezuela, says The Guardian.

Since then, adds the paper, relations between the administration and the legislature "have been stuck between tension and conflict".

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