Venezuela’s Supreme Court on Monday said any action the country’s new opposition-controlled congress might take will be null until it ousts three legislators whose election is being challenged.
The ruling is the latest threat to the opposition, which won control of the National Assembly for the first time in 17 years after a landslide vote in December. Opposition deputies said they planned to hold a congressional session on Tuesday despite the objections.
The crisis began taking shape last week, when the Supreme Court ordered that opposition deputies from Amazon state shouldn’t be allowed to take their seats until it reviewed allegations of voter fraud. The opposition, however, accused the court of being beholden to President Nicolás Maduro and the ruling party and said the justices were trying to undermine their control of congress. It swore in their three members, sparking a walk-out by the ruling-party.
In the ruling issued Monday, the court ordered the three deputies — Julio Ygarza, Nirma Guarulla and Romel Guzamana — to step down and said that any decision “the National Assembly has taken or will take” will be null while they remained seated.
Juan Pablo García, an opposition deputy with Vente Venezuela, said the National Assembly is the only body with the power to unseat deputies.
“The regime doesn’t understand that they lost the elections,” he said in a statement. “It’s up to the legislature to legislate. These deputies will remain deputies and will keep doing the job that people elected them to.”
Congress is expected to convene Tuesday for a session that’s likely to generate another showdown. The opposition is planning to propose an “amnesty and reconciliation” law that would allow for the release of more than 70 people it considers political prisoners, including Leopoldo Lopez and Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma. That bill was recieved in committee Monday.
Maduro has said he will veto any bill that might pardon people he accuses of being responsible for acts of violence that took place during national strikes in 2014.
The ruling party has also said it will introduce an “economic emergency” bill this week. But that measure is likely be shot down by the opposition.