The Venezuelan government has urged the country’s Supreme Court to review a controversial decision stripping the opposition-controlled parliament of its powers, with President Nicolas Maduro saying the controversy has already been resolved.
“The controversy between the Prosecutor’s Office and the Supreme Court of Justice (TSJ) was overcome,” Maduro said in a statement on Saturday, without elaborating.
On Wednesday, Venezuela’s top court, which is dominated by pro-government figures, seized power from the National Assembly, prompting widespread criticisms from the opposition and its supporters at home and abroad.
In a rare move, Venezuela’s chief prosecutor, Luisa Ortega, also broke with the Maduro administration, joining the critical voices against the rule, which she described a power grab attempt.
“We call for reflection so that the democratic path can be retaken,” she said to the loud applause of aides gathered around her.
The president’s statement came following a meeting of Venezuela’s National Security Council presided over by Maduro, where he voiced support for a review by the court “with the goal of maintaining institutional stability.”
On Saturday, Vice President Tareck El Aissami also sided with Maduro in his efforts to end the row over the court ruling and the ensuing political tensions, saying, “(We) urge the Supreme Court to review the decisions ... in order to maintain institutional stability and the balance of powers.”
The developments came hours after Venezuelan National Assembly president Freddy Guevara joined calls for protests on Saturday morning against the ruling, which he denounced as “coup.”
On Friday, troops from the National Guard fired buckshot and swung batons to disperse a few dozen demonstrators, who had responded to protest calls and gathered in front of the Supreme Court.
Larger demonstrations are expected on Saturday in what opposition leaders hoped would be a major turnout to censure Maduro and call for new elections.
Meanwhile, Maduro called for renewed dialogue between the government and the opposition, saying that is the only way out of the political crisis in the country amid opposition attempts to force the head of state from power.
“I’m ready with whoever is willing,” he said.
Maduro’s administration has already said the Supreme Court ruling is not meant to unseat congress but rather to guarantee the rule of law as long as lawmakers obstruct efforts to adopt a budget and make decisions on Venezuela’s deteriorating economy, which is beset with triple-digit inflation and food shortages.
“It’s untrue that a coup has taken place in Venezuela,” said the government in a statement. “On the contrary, the institutions have taken corrective legal action to stop the distractive, coup-like actions of an opposition that has declared itself openly in contempt of the decisions made by the republic's top court.”
Tensions have been running high between the opposition and the Caracas government since the 2015 elections, when Maduro lost control of the parliament amid rising anger among the public over the economic woes gripping the oil-rich Latin American state.
Last year, the opposition launched an abortive attempt to force Maduro from power by seeking to hold a recall referendum.