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Venezuela court removes fifth opposition mayor

12 August 2017
Venezuela court removes fifth opposition mayor

The deals give Russian President Vladimir Putin an even stronger foothold in the Western Hemisphere's largest oil reserves and, potentially, a way to skirt US economic sanctions imposed as punishment for Moscow's election meddling and military intervention in Ukraine.

The sentence handed down Wednesday by the Supreme Court against David Smolansky, the opposition mayor of the Caracas suburb of El Hatillo, brought to 23 the number of mayors targeted by legal action, according to the opposition. The video was circulated on social media.

Maduro was expected to address the all-powerful assembly later in the day. Smolansky, the fifth mayor to face such sanctions this year, was also accused of defying an order to prevent opposition protests from blocking streets.

Four U.S. Senate Republicans from oil refining states urged the Trump administration on Thursday to not block oil shipments from Venezuela as part of U.S. sanctions against the country, saying it could raise costs for U.S. fuel consumers. Among those named was constituent assembly member Adan Chavez, brother of the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.

He directed his foreign minister, Jorge Arreaza, to set it up "so I have a personal conversation with Donald Trump".

The bogus election and the seizing of the opposition leader prompted Trump's "dictator" accusation and his threat to take "strong and swift" action against Maduro, possibly including a ban on oil sales between the two countries.

"Venezuela can't be sanctioned by anything or anybody", he said. Almost 130 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces.

Analysts say that whether or not support for Maduro continues will depend on the evolution of the crisis.

The opposition, which gained control of Venezuela's congress in 2015 only to see its decisions nullified by the Supreme Court, boycotted the July 30 election of the legislative superbody known as the constituent assembly.

The Constituent Assembly unanimously approved Maduro "as constitutional president of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, head of state and government, commander in chief of the Bolivarian National Armed Forces", said the agreement read by the constituent member Aristobulo Isturiz during a special session on Thursday.

The recent election of the 545-member assembly drew worldwide condemnation for usurping the authority of Venezuela's opposition-controlled congress.

"This regulation aims to fix the malfunction of the public branches", said Rodriguez, adding that ANC has already approved key norms to reestablish peace in the politically roiled nation.