• Venezuela president throttles congress


    CARACAS: Venezuela’s opposition-led legislature is fighting for air as the crisis-hit country’s government throttles it, threatening to cut off its cash and even its electricity.

    The National Assembly is the one institutional weapon the opposition has in its fight to oust President Nicolas Maduro, whom it blames for a severe recession, chronic food shortages and mounting chaos.

    But since opponents of the leftist leader won control of the legislature in December elections, the Supreme Court has stripped them of their powerful two-thirds majority and quashed about 20 bills they had passed.

    The controversial rulings have fueled opposition accusations that the high court is loyal to Maduro.

    But the opposition majority refuses to surrender.

    “The parliament is judicially neutralized,” said political analyst Luis Vicente Leon, head of the polling firm Datanalisis.

    “But it is still the stronghold of the political struggle” against Maduro, he added. “That is where the real battle in Venezuela will be fought.”

    Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, has hurtled into chaos with the crash in global crude prices.

    Maduro blames the country’s deep recession and hyperinflation on wealthy business magnates he says are conspiring against his government.

    The center-right opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), blames the failure of the socialist policies of the past 17 years under Maduro and his late mentor, Hugo Chavez.

    With their legislative power stymied, Maduro’s opponents are seeking a referendum on removing him from power before his term ends in 2019.

    They are racing to force a referendum by January 10, the cutoff date to trigger new elections—four years into his six-year term.

    But with Maduro’s camp accused of stalling, it looks increasingly unlikely the opposition will be able to force a recall vote in time.



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