Venezuelan president under severe attack over alleged power grab

Screen grab from state-owned VTV television broadcast of Venezuela's attorney general Luisa Ortega speaking during the release of her 2016 annual report. Photograph:( AFP )

AFP Caracas, Capital District, Venezuela Mar 31, 2017, 11.36 PM (IST)

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro was subjected to a withering criticism from the country's attorney general for his successful attempt at enhancing his own powers.

Two days back, the Supreme Court took over the National Assembly -- the only pillar of power that was not under the control of the president and allies.

The takeover meant that the opposition-majority legislature was emasculated and also exposed lawmakers to prosecution, a move that has sparked nationwide protests.

Attorney general Luisa Ortega -- a staunch loyal to the socialist "revolution" launched in Venezuela by Maduro's mentor Hugo Chavez in 1999 -- went on the country's state television channel to launch a scathing broadside against the president.

"It is my duty to inform my country of my deep concern over these events," said Ortega, drawing a long salvo of applause from the crowd.

She delivered her remarks while brandishing a copy of what she referred to as "Chavez's constitution," adopted the year the late leftist firebrand came to power.

She also dubbed the dissolution of National Assembly as a "rupture of constitutional order".

Later, Maduro reacted to the volley of attacks, saying: "In Venezuela, the constitution, civil, political and human rights and people power are in full force."

The criticism was delivered on state television which is largely controlled by the government.

The attack on Maduro comes as protests entered its second day, with students getting clashing with soldiers and some protesters blocking streets.

Two students and a journalist were arrested, activists said.

International condemnation continued pouring in, adding to the criticism already voiced by the United States, the European Union, Spain, Germany and a host of Latin American countries.

Colombia recalled its ambassador to Venezuela, joining Chile and Peru.

On Friday the six members of the Union of South American Nations in a statement called "for the swift restoration of democratic order in the country for the good of the whole Venezuelan people."

Many have said the Supreme Court's move amounts to a coup.

Venezuela rejected that accusation Friday, lashing out at its critics as "imperialists."

The head of the Organization of American States called for the regional group's permanent council to hold crisis talks on the situation.

South American regional bloc Mercosur -- which suspended Venezuela in December -- will also hold crisis talks Saturday, Argentina announced.

(WION with inputs from AFP)