UPDATE 6-Venezuela's Maduro decried as 'dictator' after Congress annulled

jueves 30 de marzo de 2017 19:39 GYT

(Adds protests and Guatemala reaction)

By Diego Oré and Andrew Cawthorne

CARACAS, March 30 (Reuters) - Opposition leaders branded Venezuela's socialist President Nicolas Maduro a "dictator" on Thursday after the Supreme Court took over the functions of Congress and pushed a lengthy political standoff to new heights.

There was swift and widespread international condemnation of the de facto annulment of the National Assembly, where the opposition won a majority in late 2015 amid an unprecedented economic crisis that has seen Maduro's popularity plummet.

The head of the 34-nation Organization of International States (OAS), Luis Almagro, said the Venezuelan court had dealt the final blows to democracy and accused Maduro's "regime" of carrying out a "coup."

Brazil, Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Guatemala and Panama expressed strong concerns while Peru withdrew its envoy after what it termed a rupture of democracy.

The United States described the move as a "serious setback for democracy in Venezuela" while the European Union called for a "clear electoral calendar" going forward.

Venezuela's top court had already overturned most National Assembly decisions since the opposition win. Then late on Wednesday, it explicitly stated it was assuming Congress' role in a ruling authorizing Maduro to create oil joint ventures without the previously mandated congressional approval.

"As long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber guarantees congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ," the court said in its ruling.   Continuación...