Wednesday 22 November 2017

Parliament shut as Venezuela 'slides towards dictatorship'

Protesters fight police at the Supreme Court in Caracas. Photo: AFP/Getty
Protesters fight police at the Supreme Court in Caracas. Photo: AFP/Getty

Harriet Alexander

Venezuela's chief prosecutor last night condemned the Supreme Court's decision to shut down parliament, echoing concerns around the world that the troubled country was sliding towards a dictatorship.

Protesters took to the streets, blocking motorways and chanting for Nicolás Maduro's removal after the pro-government Supreme Court ruled the National Assembly was "in contempt" of the country's laws and could no longer sit in session.

"This isn't any old sentence. It marks a point of no return on the road to dictatorship," said Freddy Guevara, the assembly's deputy leader. The assembly has been controlled by opponents of Mr Maduro since December 2015 and has fought to find legal measures to oust the embattled leader, who presides over a nation crippled by food shortages, soaring crime and triple-digit inflation.

Russia refused to condemn the Supreme Court's move, which opponents of Mr Maduro likened to a coup.

"External forces should not add fuel to the fire to the conflict inside Venezuela," said the Russian foreign ministry. "We are confident in the principle of non-interference in internal affairs." But the United Nations, US, EU and a swathe of Latin American nations condemned the move, and Germany accused Mr Maduro of holding the country's population as "hostages" in his battle with parliament.

In Venezuela, Luisa Ortega, the chief prosecutor and former ally of the ruling Socialists, said the decision was a power grab. "It constitutes a rupture of the constitutional order," she said.

Telegraph.co.uk

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