Venezuela Supreme Court grants itself legislative powers

People walk past the building of the National Assembly in Caracas

People walk past the building of the National Assembly in Caracas

The Supreme Court, which has consistently supported President Nicolás Maduro's administration, said it would assume congressional duties for as long as the legislature remained "in contempt" of past court rulings.

Numerous countries also condemned the court verdict, while Peru recalled its ambassador to Venezuela.

Opposition members of parliament in Venezuela have accused the country's president of acting like a dictator.

Venezuela's political factions have been at loggerheads since opponents of President Maduro wrest control of the legislature a year ago, putting an end to over a decade of near complete governing control enjoyed by the ruling coalition.

Opposition legislators called Wednesday's ruling a "coup d'etat", saying they disavowed it and would rebel against it by continuing to carry out their work.

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Julio Borges, center, president of the National Assembly and deputy of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD), tears a copy of a sentence of the Venezuela's Supreme Court during a news conference in Caracas, Venezuela, March 30, 2017. The opposition party says the country has crossed a line into an outright dictatorship.

The court ruled that the National Assembly's "legislative omission" left it no choice but to take over congressional powers itself. Earlier this week, diplomats from the hemisphere gathered at the Organization of American States in Washington to debate whether to punish Maduro for breaking the democratic order and rule of law. OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro has said the country needs to hold regional elections - which were supposed to take place a year ago - and said the government needs to respect congress, which is seen as the last official bastion for opposition voices.

A smaller group of 14 governments, including the US, have also called for immediate elections to resolve the stalemate.

Almagro, in a statement, said the Supreme Court's latest moves lacked even the most basic guarantees of due process and violated Venezuela's own constitution as well the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which the late Hugo Chavez helped to promote.

Maduro's term in office ends in January 2019.

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"Unfortunately, what we had warned has now come to pass" he said, calling for yet another meeting of the OAS' top-decision making body to discuss the crisis.

"We must continue. doing our jobs despite the risk, because no one person gave us our titles as lawmakers".

Despite the frenzied activity among opposition activists and foreign diplomats, most Venezuelans seemed in no mood for a fight.

"We want to make perfectly clear to all the oil companies that any strategic alliance (that did not go through congress) is null", Borges reiterated on Thursday.

"The National Assembly does not recognise the Supreme Court".

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Justices pictured from left to right; Supreme Court Vice President Maikel Moreno; Supreme Court President Gladys Gutierrez; and Supreme Court Justice Indira Alfonso.

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