Venezuela’s Congress strips opposition lawmakers of immunity

FILE PHOTO: Henry Ramos Allup, lawmaker of the Venezuelan coalition of opposition parties (MUD), speaks during a gathering with opposition supporters in Caracas, Venezuela March 17, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello/File Photo

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s pro-government Constituent Assembly on Tuesday stripped seven opposition legislators of parliamentary immunity after they joined rallies on April 30 amid a failed uprising aimed at ousting President Nicolas Maduro.

The country’s Supreme Court earlier had said the legislators should be investigated for crimes including conspiracy, treason and rebellion. It did not specify which actions the lawmakers had taken that could be considered criminal.

The lawmakers in question include Henry Ramos, former chief of the legislature, and Edgar Zambrano, currently the legislature’s vice president.

“The usurper Supreme Court believes that by attempting to illegally violate the parliamentary immunity of our deputies it will slow the struggle of an entire country to escape this tragedy,” Zambrano wrote via Twitter, in response to the Supreme Court’s announcement. “They’re wrong.”

On April 30, opposition leader Juan Guaido tried to spark a military uprising to oust Maduro, but there were no widespread defections among soldiers and the plan fizzled out. Maduro denounced it as a coup attempt.

In April, following a similar request from the Supreme Court, the Constituent Assembly approved a measure allowing for a future trial of Guaido – who in January invoked the constitution to assume an interim presidency.

Guaido has described Maduro as a usurper, calling his 2018 re-election fraudulent. The United States and most other Western nations have recognised Guaido as Venezuela’s legitimate leader.

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