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Venezuela opposition targets judges over 'coup'

© AFP | Venezuelan opposition deputy Henry Ramos Allup (bottom) delivers a speech during the discussion on Supreme Court judges removal process, at the National Assembly in Caracas on April 5, 2017

CARACAS (AFP) - 

Venezuelan opposition lawmakers launched efforts Wednesday to fire judges whom they accuse of mounting a judicial "coup" to keep socialist President Nicolas Maduro in power.

It was the latest maneuver in a political crisis that is raising concerns for democracy and stability in the volatile major oil exporter.

But the deputies' effort looked unlikely to prosper since the decision to remove the judges depends on other state institutions loyal to the government.

The center-right opposition accused the judges of attempting a "coup d'etat" last week when it issued rulings transferring the assembly's legislative powers to the court and revoking lawmakers' immunity from prosecution.

The judges later revoked the rulings after an international outcry.

Opposition lawmakers on Wednesday debated a motion to call for the judges' removal.

"They have carried out an ongoing internal coup," senior opposition deputy Henry Ramos Allup told the assembly.

"We have to escape from it by civil protests, exercising our constitutional functions and not giving in to a failed, outlaw government."

Despite revoking last week's judgments, the judges kept in force a series of other rulings that restrict the assembly's powers.

The Supreme Court has consistently overruled the National Assembly legislature since the opposition majority took its seats there in January 2016.

Maduro is resisting opposition efforts to hold a vote on removing him from power.

The opposition blames him for Venezuela's economic crisis. He says it is the result of a capitalist conspiracy.

The collapse in energy prices has sapped the country's revenues, prompting shortages of food, medicine and basic goods along with a surge in violent crime.

© 2017 AFP