CARACAS, March 30 Venezuela's Supreme Court said
it would take over the opposition-led Congress's role because
the legislature is in "contempt," sparking accusations that
President Nicolas Maduro's administration is becoming a
While the pro-Maduro court has annulled many of the National
Assembly's decisions since the opposition won a majority in late
2015, it had not directly taken over functions.
Late on Wednesday, however, it authorized Maduro to create
oil joint ventures without congressional approval.
"We warn that as long as the situation of contempt in the
National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber
guarantees that congressional functions will be exercised by
this chamber or another chosen organ," the court said in a
The dispute centers on three lawmakers banned over vote
fraud accusations, which Maduro critics say is an excuse for the
government to muzzle opposition during a mounting economic
crisis in the oil-rich country.
The Democratic Unity umbrella opposition organization
slammed the Supreme Court's decision on Thursday, with several
lawmakers accusing Maduro of acting like a dictator.
"This unconstitutional sentence that we reject ... cements
another step in the dismantling of Venezuela's democracy," the
opposition said in a statement.
"This government is dying, and that's why it's turning to
these desperate measures."
However, the measure may come as good news for some foreign
oil companies in Venezuela that were spooked by the opposition's
warning that investment deals bypassing Congress would not be
As Venezuela tries to raise funds while facing steep bond
payments and a reeling economy, it has sought to sell stakes in
State oil company PDVSA recently offered Russian
oil major Rosneft a stake in the Petropiar oil joint venture,
sources with knowledge of the proposal told Reuters this month.
(Reporting by Corina Pons; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing
by Andrew Cawthorne and Lisa Von Ahn)