Venezuela's Maduro rejects coup claims in crisis

CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Security forces violently repressed small protests that broke out in Venezuela's capital Friday after the government-stacked Supreme Court gutted congress of its last vestiges of power, drawing widespread condemnation from foreign countries and even from the government's top prosecutor.

Friday brought a second day of condemnations of the ruling by the United States and governments across Latin America.

President Nicolas Maduro said the conflict between the Supreme Court and the legislature had been resolved.

The tribunal duly erased the two controversial judgements and its president, Maikel Moreno, met with both foreign envoys and journalists to explain the decision, insisting there had never been any intention to strip the National Assembly of its powers.

"They've been trying to confuse the population with the argument that Ecuador is going to turn into Venezuela" for 10 years, Long said. Venezuelans have been thrust into a new round of political turbulence after the go. Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled Wednesday night, that it can take over responsibilities assigned to Congress.

On 29 March, the Supreme Court ruled that the opposition-controlled National Assembly was in contempt of court, and that as long as this situation persisted, the Court would exercise parliamentary powers directly.

As the once-wealthy oil power descends into a chaos of hunger and crime, however, it remained far from clear whether the increasingly despondent population will view the court's move as a genuine turning point or just another step in the nation's bottoming out toward hopelessness.

Venezuela's top court took control of congress earlier this week in what critics described as a coup. They viewed it as a lurch into dictatorship by the Socialist Party that has ruled for the last 18 years.

That statement, and the internal division that it exposed for the first time, may have been the most damaging moment of the whole episode. "Women don't have food for their children, people don't have medicines".

The South American trade bloc Mercosur, which suspended Venezuela in December, called an emergency meeting. At the Organization of American States in Washington, an emergency session was scheduled for Monday to discuss the Venezuelan crisis.

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Amid the turmoil, the normally ever-present Maduro was conspicuously silent until late Friday.

Maduro accuses the United States of orchestrating a campaign to oust him and said he had been subject this week to a "political, media and diplomatic lynching".

Maduro responded to Ortega in his speech by vowing "through dialogue and the constitution, to resolve the impasse" between the attorney general and the court.

"PDVSA is counting on help from Russian Federation for the bond payments", a Venezuelan government source said on Friday, asking to remain anonymous because he is not authorized to speak to media.

But opposition supporters are also acutely aware that street tactics have failed on numerous occasions. Its two other meetings this past week ended with 20 governments led by the USA and Mexico voicing deep concern but no concrete actions to hold Maduro accountable.

Maduro will be hoping to ride out this week's storm and there is no immediate threat to his grip on power.

Maduro, 54, a former bus driver and self-declared "son" of late leftist predecessor Hugo Chavez, was narrowly elected in 2013.

Critics blame a failing socialist system, whereas the government says foes are carrying out an "economic war" against Maduro. Justices pictured from left to right; Supreme Court Vice President Maikel Moreno; Supreme Court President Gladys Gutierrez; and Supreme Court Justice Indira Alfonso. The wording about taking over Assembly functions came in a ruling allowing Maduro to create joint oil ventures without congress' approval. "And we pay the consequences".

Still, the optics for the Maduro government were bad.

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