Latin America

Venezuelan assembly removes three deputies until race dispute is resolved

Opposition-controlled parliament obeys Supreme Court contempt ruling

The entrance to the National Assembly building in Caracas.
The entrance to the National Assembly building in Caracas.MARCO BELLO (REUTERS)

The head of Venezuela’s National Assembly has said that three lawmakers whose elections last month are being challenged at the Supreme Court will abandon their seats until the controversy is resolved.

The announcement by assembly speaker Henry Ramos Allup to CNN en Español came a day after the top court held the opposition-controlled legislative body in contempt for allowing the lawmakers from Amazonas state to be sworn in.

The controversy has threatened to ignite a constitutional crisis between the judiciary, controlled by Maduro’s allies, and the opposition-run assembly

Justices warned that any decisions made by the National Assembly would be considered invalid if the three deputies were sitting in session.

Supporters of President Nicolás Maduro had filed challenges against the election of the three lawmakers alleging voting irregularities that took place during the December 6 legislative ballot.

The controversy has threatened to ignite a constitutional crisis between the judiciary, which is controlled by Maduro’s allies, and the opposition-run assembly.

Deputies from the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) – the coalition that unites all opposition parties – and the government’s minority bloc were expected to vote on Wednesday whether to temporarily dismiss the lawmakers until the top court can make its final ruling on the election challenges.

On Tuesday, Venezuela’s attorney general questioned how the Supreme Court’s contempt ruling against the National Assembly would still affect the work and procedures undertaken by lawmakers.

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The opposition’s u-turn looks like it could nullify the possibility of exempting Maduro from having to present his annual message to the nation from the assembly, as the Venezuelan constitution stipulates.

“We need to know when and where the president will make his state-of-the-nation address,” said Vice President Aristóbolo Istúriz.

But Ramos Allup said the president “must deliver his report here [at the National Assembly] and not on some street corner.”

The opposition has accused government-backed lawmakers of wanting to curtail its legislative powers by reducing its absolute majority in the assembly by filing challenges against the winners of last month’s elections.

MUD won 112 seats while the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) and its allies garnered 55 seats.

English version by Martin Delfín.

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