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Thursday, August 26, 1999 Published at 01:01 GMT 02:01 UK

World: Americas

Venezuela legislative emergency declared

Over 90% of the constitutional assembly are Chavez supporters

Venezuelas' constitutional assembly, which is controlled by supporters of the President, Hugo Chavez, has voted to suspend Congress.

BBC's Peter Greste: The old institutions have few friends in Venezuela
The assembly, which was elected last month to rewrite the constitution, is in the middle of a process to transform the country's political system.

In its latest move, the assembly declared a legislative emergency, handing all congressional powers to a commission nominated by assembly members.

Under the measure, Congress will be restricted to passing budgets, and given some administrative duties.

[ image: Cecilia Sosa accused Venezuela's judicial system of committing suicide]
Cecilia Sosa accused Venezuela's judicial system of committing suicide
The decree follows the resignation on Tuesday of Venezuela's most senior judge, Supreme Court President Cecilia Sosa, over the court's decision to support the assembly's decision to give itself extensive new powers to fire judges and overhaul the justice system.

Critics of Presient Chavez, who led a failed coup attempt in 1992, accuse him of using the assembly to assume dictatorial powers but he says the reforms are necessary to rid the country of corruption.

New constitution

Constitutional change is the centrepiece of President Chavez's plan to erase what he says is the political stranglehold of the old parties and usher in a "peaceful revolution".

Earlier this month he called on the assembly to assert its authority and not let other national institutions stand in the way of the process of rewriting the country's constitution.

President Chavez has said he believes the assembly should have the power to dissolve Congress, the Supreme Court and even the presidency, an assertion with which the Supreme Court has strongly disagreed.

Congress and the high court are controlled by political parties opposed to the president, while supporters of Mr Chavez hold 121 out of 131 seats in the new assembly.

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