Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro sending VP to present budget after parliament blocked

CARACAS, Venezuela, Oct. 14 (UPI) — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is sending his vice president, Aristóbulo Istúriz, to deliver his 2017 national budget on Friday to the troubled South American country’s highest court, which ruled the opposition-controlled parliament is banned from making changes.

Venezuelan local media reported officials at the Supreme Tribunal of Justice expected Maduro would present the budget himself on Friday. Security protocols were being carried out on Thursday, which indicated a high-level government official would travel to the Caracas courthouse.

Maduro’s ministers of university education, planning and communes and social protection will accompany Istúriz, Venezuela’s Ministry of Information and Communication said in a statement.

Venezuela’s opposition-controlled National Assembly on Tuesday lost its constitutional budget oversight power after the TSJ ruled Maduro could sidestep presenting his 2017 budget to the unicameral legislature by instead delivering it to the court’s Constitutional Hall.

The TSJ said it made the decision because of the “urgent need” to approve the budget “in order to maintain the function” of the government. The TSJ also said the decision was based on an economic crisis decree issued by Maduro, as well as over the “voluntary contempt maintained” by the Democratic Unity Roundtable, or MUD, opposition coalition.

To the condemnation of the MUD, the TSJ also stripped the National Assembly of its ability to make any changes to the budget in the future.

“Accordingly, the National Assembly can not alter at any moment the budgetary items, nor pretend to obstruct nor affect the integrity of the provisions established in the corresponding decree of the national budget, as a method to protect constitutional integrity, the function of the state and fundamental rights,” the Constitutional Hall said in a statement.

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The TSJ’s ruling has been characterized as the further deterioration of Venezuela’s democracy and balance of power as the country’s institutions are accused of making decisions in favor of Maduro’s socialist regime. After the court’s ruling, the MUD once again urged the Organization of American States to apply the Inter-American Democratic Charter, which would suspend Venezuela from the regional organization.

The TSJ has been repeatedly criticized as acting as an extension of the socialist regime established under former President Hugo Chavez.

The judiciary has handed multiple victories to Maduro since the MUD gained power of the unicameral National Assembly earlier this year after sweeping victories in parliamentary elections in December. The court in April ruled an amnesty bill passed in parliament was unconstitutional. The court also rejected a proposed constitutional amendment seeking to cut short Maduro’s term from six to four years.

The TSJ could soon announce measures to remove the National Assembly’s immunity for politicians, the opposition said. Maduro previously said he had drafted a “decree to lift the immunity of public office” he presented to the TSJ amid the opposition’s efforts to hold a recall referendum which would ask Venezuelans whether Maduro should be removed from the presidency.

The MUD accuses Maduro of threatening democracy and suppressing the opposition by attempting to remove parliamentary immunity.

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