Venezuelan legislature to ask OAS to mediate crisis

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Caracas (AFP)

Venezuela's opposition-controlled legislature will ask the Organization of American States to mediate in its standoff with President Nicolas Maduro and the judiciary, it said Thursday.

The National Assembly, where the opposition won a large majority in landmark elections in December, resolved to ask the OAS to intervene in its ongoing standoff with the Maduro administration and the Supreme Court, which has issued a series of rulings hamstringing the new legislature.

The resolution claimed recent events had "seriously affected democracy" in Venezuela and invoked article 20 of the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which provides for the OAS to take measures aimed at restoring democracy in the event of an "unconstitutional alteration of the constitutional regime" in any member state.

Tension in the recession-racked oil giant has reached the boiling point since the opposition won control of the legislature, the biggest threat yet to the socialist "revolution" launched by Maduro's late mentor Hugo Chavez in 1999.

Since then, the Supreme Court has repeatedly stymied the opposition, which has vowed to oust the deeply unpopular Maduro before the end of his term in 2019.

The high court first reduced MUD's powerful two-thirds majority, ruling that three of its lawmakers could not take their seats because of a pending case over alleged electoral fraud.

Then on Tuesday the court stripped the legislature's power to remove justices from the bench, voiding MUD's bid to review the recent appointment of 34 Supreme Court judges -- passed by the previous legislature in an 11th-hour session on the eve of the opposition takeover.

The OAS is a frequent whipping boy for Maduro, who has accused the regional organization of being a tool of American imperialism.