Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela: Opposition attacks Maduro over Supreme Court address

Nicolas Maduro speaks to first lady Cilia Flores next to Supreme Court judges Image copyright AP
Image caption Nicolas Maduro speaks to first lady Cilia Flores next to Supreme Court judges

The Venezuelan opposition has accused President Nicolas Maduro of violating the constitution by delivering his annual state of the nation address before the Supreme Court.

Mr Maduro said he hoped to be able to address the opposition-controlled National Assembly next year.

Last week the assembly declared that he had in effect abandoned his post by mismanaging the economy.

Mr Maduro said he was fulfilling his daily duties.

After the National Assembly's decision, the Supreme Court ruled that Mr Maduro was allowed to deliver his annual report to the judges.

"It is public knowledge that I am fully exercising my constitutional duties day after day," said Mr Maduro at the beginning of his speech, which was broadcast on national television.

'A costly error'

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles tweeted that Mr Maduro's address in the Supreme Court breached the constitution and confirmed that he was "a costly error in our history".

Mr Capriles was defeated by Mr Maduro in the 2013 presidential elections. He is now governor of Miranda state.

Mr Maduro said that he remained "committed to dialogue and to harmonious, balanced, constitutional solutions".

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Venezuelans have been given an extra month to swap their 100 bolivar notes

During his address, he admitted that Venezuela's economic model based on oil exports had "become unviable" because of a sharp drop in global prices.

Revenue from oil exports dropped from $48bn (£39.4bn) in 2008 to $5.3bn (£4.3bn) in 2016.

Mr Maduro said he was postponing until 20 February the decision to withdraw from circulation the country's most common banknote, the 100 bolivars.

He first announced that the note would cease to be legal tender on 15 December, which led to chaos and long queues outside bank branches.

The measure has been already delayed several times.

New higher denomination notes will begin circulating later on Monday, Mr Maduro said.

President Maduro's critics say he and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, are to blame for the sky-rocketing inflation and chronic shortages of basic goods the country is experiencing.

Mr Maduro in turn blames Venezuela's business elite, accusing it of sabotaging the country's economy and conspiring with "imperialist forces" in the United States to force him from office.

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