The Cable

Venezuela’s Supreme Court Shuts Down Country’s Congress

Opposition members are calling the move a “coup.”

venuvenu

Late Wednesday evening, Venezuela’s Supreme Court effectively took over its Congress.

The court contends that legislators are operating extrajudicially and says it will assume all of Congress’s functions. But the court is widely seen as being controlled by Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro, while Congress is viewed by many as the last stronghold of the opposition.

Some opposition members are vowing to continue carrying out their legislative duties. And members of opposition Voluntad Popular party are decrying the move as “a clear coup against our constitution and the National Assembly, which was elected by more than 15 million Venezuelans.”

The international community is registering its disapproval. Peru cut ties with Venezuela on Thursday.

That comes after the United States signalled recently it would be taking a harder line on Venezuela. In February of this year, the U.S. Treasury Department sanctioned Venezuela’s vice president for drug trafficking while President Donald Trump called for the immediate release of political prisoner Leopoldo Lopez.

On Tuesday, Michael Fitzpatrick, deputy assistant secretary for the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, at a special meeting of a council of the Organization of American States permanent council, referenced a decision the supreme court made to limit the immunity of National Assembly members.

That ruling was made while Venezuela’s foreign minister was at the OAS meeting, and so, Fitzpatrick said, “the timing and content are a clear signal” that attempts by OAS to discuss Venezuela “may carry local repercussions for opposition lawmakers.”

Wednesday’s late ruling only makes that clearer.

Photo credit: John Moore/Getty Images

Emily Tamkin is a staff writer at Foreign Policy covering ambassadorial and diplomatic affairs in Washington. @emilyctamkin

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