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Venezuela legislature suspends session voided by court

January 12, 2016

CARACAS — Venezuela’s opposition-controlled legislature suspended its session Tuesday after the Supreme Court declared it null and void on grounds that the new speaker defied the judiciary by swearing in three banned lawmakers.

Speaker Henry Ramos Allup, a fiery opponent of President Nicolás Maduro, declared the National Assembly lacked a quorum and suspended its session until Wednesday morning.

Legislative sources said the opposition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) was consulting its lawyers to decide how to respond to the ruling by the Supreme Court, which MUD accuses of pro-Maduro bias.

The opposition had initially vowed to press ahead with its session in defiance of the court’s decision.

The court ruled Monday that all actions taken by the current National Assembly are invalid because it includes the three lawmakers from Amazonas state, where an investigation is under way into alleged vote-buying in last month’s legislative elections.

The opposition won the polls in a landslide, triggering a crisis for Maduro and the “revolution” launched by his late mentor Hugo Chávez in 1999.

But the suspension of the three lawmakers’ inauguration threatens to strip MUD of the powerful two-thirds majority it had vowed to use to force Maduro from power within six months.

Venezuela, the country with the world’s largest oil reserves, has sunk ever deeper into economic crisis as crude prices have plunged in recent months.

A deep recession and what analysts say is the world’s highest inflation rate have fueled discontent with Maduro, whose term runs until 2019.

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