Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice (STJ) [official website, in Spanish] on Thursday ruled [judgment, in Spanish] that an economic state of emergency declared by President Nicolas Maduro is constitutional. The declaration, issued on May 13, gives the president special reach [BBC report] in matters pertaining to the state of the economy for 60 days. The Venezuelan population is currently suffering from the highest inflation rate in the world [BBC report]. The court declared Maduro’s response to the situation to be appropriate “given the extraordinary circumstances of social, economic, political, natural and ecological that seriously affect the national economy.” Under these circumstances, Maduro will be able to decrease the work week for private businesses to cut-back on electricity. He has already implemented changes by allowing the Venezuelan armed forces to control food disbursal. The decision of the court upholding the decree conflicts with the rejection by parliament earlier this week.
There has been considerable legislative tension between the pro-government STJ and the opposition-majority National Assembly of Venezuela following the December election. Last month the STJ rejected an attempt [JURIST report] by the National Assembly to shorten Maduro’s term from six years to four. The assembly approved new new referendum rules [JURIST report] in April to speed up the process of requesting recall referendums. In March the STJ ruled that the National Assembly may not review the appointment of 13 justices [JURIST report] to the high court by the Socialist Party. The 13 justices were sworn in on December 23, immediately prior to the exit of prior Socialist Party majority. In February the court upheld Maduro’s economic emergency decree [JURIST report] as legal and valid despite a rejection by the national assembly. The decree allowed the president to control the budget, companies and the currency. In January the STJ ruled that all decisions from the opposition-led assembly would be void [JURIST report] until three opposition lawmakers were removed from their seats. The court’s decision came days after the assembly swore in elected lawmakers that were temporarily barred by the court [JURIST reports]. The ruling had suspended four elected lawmakers for their involvement in alleged election fraud last December [JURIST report].