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After protests, Venezuela restores power to congress

April 1, 2017 at 5:12 PM EDT
Venezuela's Supreme Court today reversed a decision to strip the opposition-led congress of legislative power. That original decision had brought protests and criticism from the United Nations along with foreign governments, including the United States. Anatoly Kurmanaev, a reporter at the Wall Street Journal, joins Hari Sreenivasan from Caracas to discuss.
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HARI SREENIVASAN, PBS NEWSHOUR WEEKEND ANCHOR: Venezuela is undergoing a constitutional crisis with its Supreme Court today reversing its own decision from earlier this week that it transferred powers from the national assembly to the court, which is loyal to President Nicolas Maduro. Following the court decision today, Maduro said the controversy is over.

“Wall Street Journal” reporter Anatoly Kurmanaev is in Caracas and joins me now via Skype to discuss the political crisis.

Anatoly, we’ve been covering the dissent of Venezuela and certain conditions for some time now, but this week was definitely very new. I mean, what was at the core of the decision that the Supreme Court made?

ANATOLY KURMANAEV, WALL STREET JOURNAL: That’s right. Venezuela has definitely reached a new low, (INAUDIBLE) slide towards dictatorship. The ruling this week was quite unprecedented and quite unexpected. It came out Wednesday night, as part of a mundane interpretation of an oil law, and it was just one sentence at the very end of a 20,000-word ruling that said that the Supreme Court will take over all functions of the opposition-controlled Congress.

Since then, it has been quite a roller coaster. In Caracas, we had attorney general (ph), staunch ally of the government, come out and say that the ruling is unconstitutional, a break in the law. We had President Maduro have a very long session yesterday, saying this was open to understanding, just a mundane controversy, and this morning, you know, hustle and bustle of government agencies, and this morning, a court reversed its decision on Maduro’s order, again, something completely unprecedented. Maduro was saying it shows the separation of powers, and the opposition saying exactly the opposite

SREENIVASAN: Ironically, the fact that the president can influence the court is what it took for him to reverse, this or the court to reverse this.

KURMANAEV: That’s right again, the president seems to be digging himself down really low ratings with protests in the streets of Caracas. This afternoon, protesters blocked main highway, clashed with police, tear gas, and promised more protests next week, keep up international pressure on Maduro. They promised to keep drafting laws. So, whatever was behind the decision, it left the country even more unstable than before

SREENIVASAN: This is in the context of, you know, just last week, we were having a conversation about decrease in medical supplies, and also the international community is starting to weigh in on this.

KURMANAEV: Absolutely. We had two recalled ambassadors indefinitely from — we saw this week, Colombia and Brazil have recalled their ambassadors for consultation. Quite unprecedented measures. Again very strong condemnation from organization (INAUDIBLE) states, and more coming in every day.

SREENIVASAN: All right. Anatoly Kurmanaev from the “Wall Street Journal,” joining us live on Skype from Caracas today — thanks so much.

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