Dark days in Venezuela: President Nicolas Maduro has made his most blatant power grab to date in a move that looks set to create an unvarnished dictatorship in the oil rich country. The New York Times:
Venezuela took its strongest step yet toward one-man rule under the leftist President Nicolás Maduro as his loyalists on the Supreme Court seized power from the National Assembly in a ruling late Wednesday night.
The ruling effectively dissolved the elected legislature, which is led by Mr. Maduro’s opponents, and allows the court to write laws itself, experts said.
The move caps a year in which the last vestiges of Venezuela’s democracy have been torn down, critics and regional leaders say, leaving what many now describe as not just an authoritarian regime, but an outright dictatorship.
Not content with steering Venezuela into a downward spiral of hyperinflation, food shortages, and dwindling oil production, Maduro seems determined to drag Venezuela’s democracy down with him. Maduro’s muzzling of the National Assembly is the dramatic culmination of his ongoing campaign against the opposition, from mass arrests of opposition leaders to the suspension of a recall referendum to remove him from power.
Maduro seems to have timed the move as a defiant rebuke to his international critics. On Tuesday, the Organization of American States called for Maduro to engage in dialogue with the opposition, respect the “functioning of democracy,” and recognize the National Assembly. The very next day, Maduro dissolved it.
With international pressure so far proving fruitless, Venezuela’s domestic opposition is already organizing; initial reports tell of opposition leaders blocking a highway in Caracas in the first protests since the ruling. But such street tactics have failed to produce change in the past, and enthusiasm and turnout has been dwindling since the fall. It remains to be seen whether Maduro’s power grab will further crush the opposition’s spirit or galvanize it.
One measure to watch is whether Maduro’s own allies might break ranks: on Friday morning, Attorney General Luisa Ortega said that the ruling was unconstitutional, signaling a break with Maduro that caused state television to immediately cut off her transmission. These fissures within Maduro’s government, no less than the opposition protests, should be watched carefully as Maduro seeks to consolidate Venezuela’s slide from democracy to dictatorship.