- Ruling sets up clash with opposition controlled congress
- Maduro says he'll use the emergency powers in coming days
Venezuela’s Supreme Court declared an emergency decree President Nicolas Maduro says he needs to fight triple-digit inflation and the deepest recession in over a decade to be legal and valid, overruling the opposition-controlled congress that rejected the legislation last month.
In a ruling posted on its website Thursday night, the court said that congress had not followed the necessary procedure required by law to reject the legislation. Maduro, who was speaking on state television as the ruling was published, said that he will start using the powers granted in the decree in the coming days.
“What good news,” Maduro said. “Now that the economic emergency decree is valid, I will activate a series of measures in the coming days that I had been working on.”
The decree, submitted by Maduro to congress on Jan. 15, grants the executive wide ranging powers including oversight of the country’s budget, public and private production as well as distribution of essential goods. Congress rejected the proposal on Jan. 22, arguing that the country needs structural reform and not more controls.
While the Supreme Court was widely expected to side with Maduro, the institutional standoff may further weigh on the country’s fragile, oil-dependent economy at a time of historically low commodity prices.
“Don’t think that we’re going to stand around with our arms crossed in the face of this coup from the government,” National Assembly president Henry Ramos Allup said Friday at press conference in Caracas. “The government is in its terminal phase. They’re trying to stop the assembly because it’s serving its function.”
Ramos Allup repeated his call for a peaceful and constitutional change in government and said that congress would announce its plan to seek Maduro’s removal from office in the coming days.
The International Monetary Fund estimates that inflation in Venezuela, which already stands as the world’s highest, will spiral to 720 percent this year. The economy is expected to contract for the third consecutive year.
Venezuela’s government is using “magic” to “maintain supplies, comply with external accounts and obligations, and maintain oil production,” Maduro said Thursday night. The country’s price for its oil exports ended the day at $21.90 a barrel, he said.
Growing discontent over soaring prices and empty store shelves fueled the opposition’s landslide victory in congressional elections late last year. Maduro insists that Venezuela’s economic hard times are the result of a campaign waged by his political opponents and the U.S. to destabilize the country. His critics counter it’s the government’s incompetence and nearly two decades worth of socialist controls.
Last month, the newly-installed congress backed down in a dispute with the Supreme Court and removed three deputies who are under investigation for alleged electoral irregularities, casting doubt on the opposition’s claim to a so-called super majority that would give it ample powers to challenge Maduro’s government.
After winning 112 of 167 seats, the opposition pledged to free political prisoners, unwind more than a decade worth of socialist controls on the economy and seek the removal of Maduro within six months. More than a dozen new justices were appointed to the Supreme Court by the outgoing, pro-government congress before the new opposition congress was sworn in.
“The Supreme Court has spoken, and its sacred word should be obeyed,” Maduro said. “No funny business.”