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When a coup is not a coup: Venezuela is edging closer to a full-on democratic catastrophe

A number of Latin American countries have hit out at the move.

Image: Ariana Cubillos/PA

VENEZUELA HAS REJECTED accusations that a Supreme Court move to seize the powers of the opposition-majority legislature amounted to a coup, lashing out at its critics as “imperialists”.

International condemnation poured in after the high court’s decision on Wednesday, which effectively dissolved the legislature and tightened socialist President Nicolas Maduro’s grip on power.

The United States, the European Union, the head of the Organisation of American States (OAS) and a host of Latin American countries all condemned the move.

Venezuela accused its neighbours of being beholden to the United States, which Maduro accuses of plotting to oust him.

“Venezuela repudiates this onslaught by intolerant, right-wing and pro-imperialist governments in Latin America under the orders of the US State Department,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“It is false that there has been a coup d’etat in Venezuela. On the contrary, its institutions have adopted corrective legal measures to halt the deviant, coup-mongering actions of opposition lawmakers.”

Condemnation meanwhile continued to pile in today.

Colombia and Spain became the latest to oppose the court’s move, joining Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Peru, Chile and others.

Colombia recalled its ambassador to Venezuela, while Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy warned on Twitter that “when you break the division of powers, you break democracy.”

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro called for the regional organization’s permanent council to hold crisis talks on the situation.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein also voiced “grave concern.”

“The separation of powers is essential for democracy to function, and keeping democratic spaces open is essential to ensure human rights are protected,” he said in a statement.

The plunging oil prices in late 2014, combined with a recession, crushed the Venezuelan economy. Inflation is out of control to the point that an iPhone 6 costs nearly $47,700 (€42,000) right now. The country is looking for allies outside of OPEC in hopes of stabilising its oil prices.

Food and electricity shortages have led to large demonstrations against Maduro in recent months. However, he has vowed to stay in power.

Last September, one of the rallies turned violent.

Police deployed in their hundreds to keep anti-government protesters angry at food and medicine shortages apart from Maduro’s supporters, who vowed to defend his “socialist revolution”.

The rallies raised fears of violence in the oil-rich South American state, where anti-government protests in 2014 led to clashes with police that left 43 people dead.

The leader of the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable, Jesus Torrealba, told AFP it was the “biggest rally in recent decades” with “between 950,000 and 1.1 million people” taking part.

Demonstrators dressed in white marched in the east of the capital, yelling “Venezuela is hungry” and “This government is going to fall”.

© AFP 2017

Read: A ‘vanishing’ congressman, a mysterious White House visit: The latest twists in the Trump/Russia saga

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