Venezuela’s Supreme Court Again Throws Maduro a Lifeline

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks to the press before entering the V Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, in Bavaro, Dominican Republic, last Wednesday. (AP Photo/Tatiana Fernandez)

BOGOTA, Colombia (Miami Herald/TNS) - Venezuela’s Supreme Court has come to the rescue of President Nicolas Maduro once again, ruling that the opposition-controlled congress doesn’t have the right to try to sideline the president and reaffirming its position that every decision the legislature takes is outside of the law.

In a Jan. 26 ruling published Monday, the court said the legislature had no right to declare on Jan. 9 that Maduro had “abandoned” his functions.

“Abandoning a post … implies voluntary, arbitrary and physical separation from work (or public functions) and not a ‘presumed’ inefficiency in carrying out those functions,” the court said.

The legislature had been arguing that the nation’s chaotic economic and political environment, featuring food shortages and hyperinflation, is the direct result of Maduro’s incompetence and that he should be removed.

But the court went further, reaffirming a previous ruling that congress is a body gone rogue, and that all its decisions are illegitimate. In essence, the court said that since congress had ignored previous rulings, the court could not recognize the legitimacy of the new speaker of the house and congressional leaders elected Jan. 5.

“Their acts are absolutely null,” the court said.

The ruling wasn’t a surprise, but it does deepen the divide between the opposition and the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela. For months, the opposition has been trying to find ways to cut Maduro’s term short before it ends in 2019.

Maduro has often accused the opposition of trying to topple him through coups and the congress. Meanwhile the opposition accuses the administration of jailing opponents and activists as it clings to power.

The opposition political party Fuerza Liberal denounced the court ruling Tuesday, saying the decision to block laws “solidifies this dictatorship and its transition into tyranny, which can’t be disguised anymore.”