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Venezuela opposition drops deputies to break deadlock

CARACAS — Venezuela’s opposition moved Wednesday to try to break the country’s political deadlock by removing from the state legislature three of its deputies rejected by the government.

The move raised the prospect of an end to more than a week of tense squabbling over the composition of the congress in the crisis-hit OPEC oil producer.

The opposition bowed to a ruling by the Supreme Court which ordered three of its lawmakers to be suspended while it investigates charges of electoral fraud against them. In a session of the assembly, opposition lawmakers voted to accept a request from the three to give up their seats while they defend themselves in the case.

“We have no problem in saying it. Let it be noted that we are complying” with the court injunction, said the speaker of the assembly, Henry Ramos Allup.

The opposition MUD coalition says the court is under the influence of President NicolÁs Maduro, whose side sued the three lawmakers for electoral fraud. The opposition accuses him of using it to block them from taking up the full two-thirds majority which could enable them to launch constitutional steps to drive him from office.

The MUD vowed to launch measures within six months to force Maduro from power when it defiantly swore in all its deputies last week.

Wednesday’s move was a retreat from that swearing-in, apparently aimed at unblocking the standoff in the assembly.

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

Maduro’s socialist PSUV party lost its legislative majority for the first time in nearly 17 years in elections last month.

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