Venezuela Socialist-Controlled Supreme Court Shuts Down Legislative Branch

After a months-long standoff in Venezuela that included the Socialist-controlled Supreme Court overturning many of the opposition-controlled National Assembly's decisions, the court has explicitly ruled it will now act as the legislative branch, Reuters reports. "As long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues," the court ruled, "this constitutional chamber guarantees congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ."

The secretary general of the Organization of American States, Luis Almagro, called the action a "self-inflicted coup d´état perpetrated by the Venezuelan regime against the National Assembly." Several Latin American countries, including Brazil, Colombia, and Mexico, expressed concerns and Peru withdrew its envoy, which Venezuela's foreign minister called "rude support for the violent and extremist sectors in Venezuela."

The opposition won control of the National Assembly in late 2015 as the long socialist project in Venezuela was coming to a brutal and inevitable head. Since then, the government has doubled-down on the kind of centrally planned and redistributionist policies that brought Venezuela to where it is in the first place. Instead of changing course, the government has found more and more scapegoats and "enemies" to blame for the economic crisis. Earlier this month, the socialist government accused bakers of waging "economic war" against the country and started arresting them for making bread rolls.

The United States and the European Union also chimed in on the latest developments in Venezuela. A spokesperson for the State Department said the U.S. condemned the "decision to usurp the power of the democratically elected National Assembly" and called it "a serious setback for democracy," while the E.U. called for a "clear electoral calendar." The opposition has called for early presidential elections as the popularity of President Nicolas Maduro continues to scrape new lows. The government responded by accusing a "right-wing regional pact" of plotting against it. State-controlled Telesur TV called the characterization of the court's decision as a coup "fake news," insisting the court's ruling was because the occupants of 3 of the 167 seats in the legislature were accused of voting irregularities. The opposition controls 112 seats. Maduro tried to dissolve the legislature last year after it attempted to launch a recall effort against him.

U.S. responses to the crisis in Venezuela in recent years have largely been profoundly unproductive. A few months after the opposition party wrested control of the legislature, President Obama renewed the U.S. declaration of Venezuela as a a "national security risk," providing Maduro and the socialists new ammunition to smear opposition as foreign stooges. Yesterday, Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) joined Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) in condemning the court's power grab, calling it "an attack on what remained of democratic institutions in Venezuela" and Maduro "an unhinged dictator who has systematically dismantled democracy in this country." The two also met with various opposition lawmakers. Menendez, who has called for an "independent" investigation of Russia's alleged interference in the U.S. election, should be keenly aware of how his words and actions could be weaponized by the ruling party in Venezuela and used against the opposition.

For Venezuelans, liberation from socialism won't come from the U.S. or the OAS or any foreign actor. Instead it will come from within, with the help of the kind of decentralized technology that is challenging state power around the world, like Bitcoin: