Maduro Ignores Venezuelan Congress and Sends Budget to Courts

  • Supreme Court ruled Maduro could bypass congress this week
  • Pro-government judges makes budget approval all but guaranteed

President Nicolas Maduro presented the 2017 budget to Venezuela’s top court Friday, sidestepping the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

The move caps almost a year of clashes between the executive and the newly elected congress, which has seen its powers whittled away by the courts as it looks to oust Maduro. The Supreme Court, stacked with pro-government judges, paved the way for the decree earlier this week, removing congress’s budgetary authority.

“No one can go against the ruling of the Supreme Court; it’s binding,” Maduro said while signing the decree in front a crowd of cheering supporters.

The opposition took control of the National Assembly in elections last year. Since then, it has pushed for a recall referendum on Maduro’s rule as the economy falls deeper into recession, inflation accelerates and shortages of basic goods mount. The initiative has been slow going, though, with the electoral authorities dragging their feet over the process, while the legislature and executive remain at loggerheads, paralyzing the democratic process.

The opposition slammed today’s executive decree, saying it trampled on the constitution. Ignoring checks and balances was part of the ruling socialists’ efforts to “conspire against democracy,” opposition coalition boss Jesus “Chuo” Torrealba said in a statement.

Maduro based his spending plans on a projected oil price of $30 a barrel, as the South American nation continues to reel from the global collapse in the price of crude -- its only significant export. He said that almost three quarters of the budget would be dedicated to social spending.

While Maduro pledges to make good on all of Venezuela’s outstanding debts, congress has warned investors that any international financing deals struck by government without congressional approval could be null and void.

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