Venezuela’s Maduro seeks to cut funds to opposition-controlled parliament

CARACAS, Venezuela, Aug. 3 (UPI) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro asked the Comptroller General and the Supreme Court to block resources to the opposition-controlled National Assembly.

Maduro on Tuesday said he wants to block the National Assembly’s access to public funds because it is operating “outside the law.” The unicameral parliament became majority-controlled by the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition after historic elections in December that soundly defeated Maduro’s socialist government.

On Monday, Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, or CNE, confirmed the opposition coalition gathered enough signatures to move to the second phase of a recall process against Maduro. The MUD is working to hold a recall referendum, in which Venezuelans will be asked whether Maduro should be removed from the presidency by the end of the year.

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During a televised address on Tuesday, Maduro said he would seek to cut off the parliament from public funds in reference to the swearing in of three opposition lawmakers. In late December, Venezuela’s supreme court — the Supreme Tribunal of Justice — suspended the three coalition members and one pro-government member who were elected to the National Assembly pending an investigation of allegations of electoral fraud.

Venezuelan constitutional experts disagree on the circumstances surrounding the suspension and whether the three should be allowed to serve in the legislature during the election investigation. The high court has been repeatedly criticized as acting as an extension of the socialist regime established under former President Hugo Chavez.

The suspension removes the opposition coalition’s two-thirds super-majority, which would enable it to remove judges from the supreme court, particularly after the outgoing United Socialist Party of Venezuela — led by Maduro — was accused of stacking the court before the change of power.

The opposition has now twice sworn in the suspended members, an act Venezuelan Attorney General Reinaldo Muñoz deemed “absolutely unconstitutional and unlawful.”

Maduro suggested the National Assembly does not exist.

“For the National Assembly being outside the law, as head of the National Treasury, I cannot deposit resources to a nonexistent National Assembly,” Maduro said. “I cannot use public resources in institutions that flout and call for the contempt of laws.”

The Venezuelan president said workers employed within the parliament would receive salaries directly if parliament is cut off financially.

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