[JURIST] Venezuelan government officials on Tuesday asked the Supreme Court to deny a referendum to remove President Nicolas Maduro proposed by opposition leaders. Following the declaration by the National Electoral College (CNE) [official website in Spanish] that more than 600,000 signatures found on the petition for the referendum were “invalid,” those in support of Maduro, such as Jorge Rodriguez, accused opposition leaders of fraud. On Tuesday US Secretary of State John Kerry [official profile] announced his support for the referendum [Washington Times report], according to the Venezuelan government. Hours later, however, Kerry announced talks [Reuters report] between the two nations in an attempt to “improve the relationship.” It is unlikely that a referendum will take place this year.
There has been considerable legislative tension between the pro-government controlled Supreme Tribunal of Justice and the opposition-majority National Assembly of Venezuela following the December election. In April Venezuela’s opposition-led parliament approved [JURIST report] new referendum rules. In March the Supreme Tribunal of Justice ruled that the Venezuelan 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 President Maduro’s economic emergency decree [JURIST report] as legal and valid despite a rejection by the national assembly. The decree allows the president to control the budget, companies and the currency. In January the Supreme Tribunal of Justice 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].