Venezuela has stripped leading opposition congresswoman Maria Corina Machado of her mandate after she spoke before the Organization of American States (OAS) last week.
Maria Corina Machado had been invited by Panama to give her account of the recent wave of unrest in Venezuela.
But Venezuela’s authorities say Maria Corina Machado “acted as a Panamanian official” by accepting the invitation.
The decision means Maria Corina Machado will lose her parliamentary immunity and could be prosecuted for “inciting violence”.
More than 30 people have died since mid-February in demonstrations against high inflation, food shortages and violence levels.
Venezuela’s National Assembly’s president, Diosdado Cabello, said Maria Corina Machado had contravened the constitution.
Venezuela has stripped Maria Corina Machado of her Congress mandate after she spoke before the OAS
Diosdado Cabello also said Maria Corina Machado was introduced at the OAS meeting in Washington DC as an “alternate ambassador” to Panama.
“Maybe the Panamanian government will now name her permanent ambassador,” he added.
Arriving in Peru’s capital, Lima, for a seminar at an institution presided by the 2010 Nobel Prize winning author Mario Vargas Llosa, Maria Corina Machado accused Diosdado Cabello of running a “dictatorship in the National Assembly”.
Maria Corina Machado wrote later on Twitter: “Mr. Cabello: I am a Congresswoman at the National Assembly so long as the people of Venezuela want it.”
She also said she was prepared to deal with the consequences of her actions.
“If the price that I must pay for having gone to the OAS so that the voice of the Venezuelan people could be heard is that I’m being persecuted today, in what they’re doing to me now, I will pay for it one and a million times.”
On Saturday, President Nicolas Maduro had already referred to Maria Corina Machado as “former congresswoman”.
Maria Corina Machado has been openly demanding the resignation of Nicolas Maduro since the start of the recent protests.
Venezuela’s government accuses “right-wing fascists” of inciting the unrest as part of a plot to overthrow the government.
Vice-president Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as acting president of Venezuela hours after the state funeral of Hugo Chavez.
The ceremony was led by National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello in the capital, Caracas.
Hugo Chavez, who died on March 5 after a long battle with cancer, had named Nicolas Maduro as his chosen successor.
However, the main opposition coalition boycotted Nicolas Maduro’s swearing-in, saying that it was unconstitutional.
It argues that – under the constitution – the speaker of the National Assembly should be the one to take over as acting president.
The opposition leader, Henrique Capriles, called the move fraudulent.
After swearing in Nicolas Maduro, Diosdados Cabello said: “Venezuela will follow the route to socialism.”
As acting president, Nicolas Maduro is expected to call elections within 30 days.
Holding a copy of the Venezuelan constitution in his hand, Nicolas Maduro announced at the National Assembly: “I swear in the name of absolute loyalty to Comandante [commander] Hugo Chavez that we will obey and defend this Bolivarian Constitution with the hard hand of the free people.”
Vice-president Nicolas Maduro has been sworn in as acting president of Venezuela hours after the state funeral of Hugo Chavez
Fireworks exploded above Caracas as Nicolas Maduro was sworn in.
Earlier on Friday, Venezuelans paid an emotional farewell to Hugo Chavez.
Nicolas Maduro told mourners that Hugo Chavez, who led Venezuela for 14 years, remained “undefeated, pure, living for all time”.
The former vice-president began the funeral ceremony by presenting Hugo Chavez’s coffin with the sword of Simon Bolivar – the 19th-Century independence leader he claimed as his inspiration.
More than 30 world leaders attended the ceremony, including Cuban President Raul Castro, Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Alexander Lukashenko of Belarus.
A message was read out from Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Hugo Chavez, 58, was re-elected for a fourth term as president last October after saying he had recovered from his illness.
He named Nicolas Maduro as his preferred successor following the recurrence of his cancer.
Born in Caracas in 1962
Former bus driver who began political career as a trade unionist
Campaigned for Hugo Chavez’s release from prison in 1994
Speaker of the National Assembly from 2005-2006
2006 becomes foreign minister
2012 appointed vice-president
Has long-standing ties with Cuba where he trained as a union organizer
Described as a wily operator and a skilled negotiator
Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved a request by President Hugo Chavez to postpone his inauguration for a new term in office, which was scheduled for Thursday, January 10.
Hugo Chavez is in hospital in Cuba after cancer surgery, and has suffered complications caused by a lung infection.
Legislators voted to give Hugo Chavez as much time as he needs to recover.
He has not been seen in public since his last operation a month ago.
Earlier, Vice-President Nicolas Maduro had confirmed that Hugo Chavez would be unable to attend the ceremony.
Venezuela’s opposition has called for the Supreme Court to rule on what should be done if Hugo Chavez is absent.
Its leader, Henrique Capriles, says Hugo Chavez should be declared absent, with the speaker of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, taking over as interim president.
President Hugo Chavez, who has been in power since 1999, was re-elected in October for a fourth term.
The government insists that the inauguration is a mere formality for an incumbent leader.
Venezuela’s National Assembly has approved a request by President Hugo Chavez to postpone his inauguration for a new term in office
After weeks of speculation, Diosdado Cabello announced to legislators that Hugo Chavez had requested to be sworn in at a later date before the Supreme Court, according to Article 231 of the Constitution.
“On the recommendation of his medical team, the process of post-operation recuperation will have to be prolonged beyond 10 January, [as a result of which] he will be unable to present himself on this date to the National Assembly,” he said, reading a letter from Vice President Nicolas Maduro.
On Monday, Diosdado Cabello called on Hugo Chavez supporters to take to the streets of Caracas on Thursday to show support for him.
He said several foreign leaders had agreed to be at the Miraflores Presidential Palace on inauguration day.
But Henrique Capriles urged them to stay away and not succumb to “a game by a political party”, meaning Hugo Chavez’s ruling party.
In his most recent update on Hugo Chavez, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said his condition was “stable”, and he was “responding to the treatment”.
Article 231: The president-elect shall take office on January 10 of the first year of their constitutional term, by taking an oath before the National Assembly. If for any reason, (they) cannot be sworn in before the National Assembly, they shall take the oath of office before the Supreme Court.
Article 233:(…) When there is an absolute absence of the president-elect before taking office, there shall be a new election by universal, direct and secret vote within the next 30 consecutive days. Pending the election and inauguration of the new president, the president of the National Assembly will assume responsibility for the presidency of the Republic.
If the absence of the president of the Republic occurs during the first four years of the constitutional period, there shall be a new election by universal, direct and secret vote within 30 consecutive days. Pending the election and inauguration of the new president, the executive vice-president will be responsible for the presidency of the Republic.
Article 234: When the president is temporarily unable to serve, they shall be replaced by the executive vice-president for a period of up to 90 days, which may be extended by resolution of the National Assembly for an additional 90 days.
Venezuelan authorities have urged President Hugo Chavez’s supporters to join a major rally on Thursday, when he is due to be sworn in for a fourth term.
Hugo Chavez, in hospital in Cuba after cancer surgery, is unlikely to attend.
But Venezuelan National Assembly Speaker Diosdado Cabello said many heads of state would be in Caracas to show their support.
The Catholic Church says ministers risk violating the constitution and the opposition have called for protests.
The opposition insists new elections should be called within 30 days if Hugo Chavez is unable to take the oath on January 10.
Hugo Chavez, 58, who has been in power since 1999, has not been seen in public since his latest operation last month, and government officials have acknowledged that he has suffered complications caused by a lung infection.
The president’s condition was “stable”, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said in a televised statement late on Monday.
Venezuelan authorities have urged President Hugo Chavez’s supporters to join a major rally on Thursday, when he is due to be sworn in for a fourth term
Predicting a major pro-Chavez demonstration, the speaker of the assembly appealed to opposition leaders to act responsibly on Thursday and warned: “We will stop any attempt to destabilize the government.”
“There will be a big gathering here in Caracas on January 10. All of Venezuela is going to come to Caracas and be in front of the Miraflores [Presidential’ Palace. The people will be on the streets,” Diosdado Cabello said.
Earlier, the Venezuelan Catholic Church said it would be a morally unacceptable violation of the constitution to allow Hugo Chavez to remain in power after missing his inauguration.
The head of the Venezuelan Conference of Bishops, Diego Padron, said Hugo Chavez had to attend his inauguration when his term ended on 10 January.
“It is not our job to intervene publically, but in this case the good of the country and the defence of ethics are at stake. To alter the constitution to attain a political objective is morally unacceptable,” added Monsignor Diego Padron.
The assembly speaker hit back, insisting that the government “had always respected the constitution and would continue to do so”.
“We believe the call made by the Bishops’ Conference today is aimed at the sectors of the opposition and the high echelons of the Church who took active part in the 2002 coup attempt [against President Hugo Chavez],” he said.
Diosdado Cabello was re-elected as speaker on Saturday.
If Hugo Chavez does not take the oath of office, the Speaker of the National Assembly should act as caretaker president until new elections are held within 30 days, the opposition says.
In the absence of President Chavez, Diosdado Cabello and Vice-President Nicolas Maduro are in effect running the country.
Attorney-General Cilia Flores said on Sunday that Hugo Chavez could be sworn in at a later date.
Hugo Chavez is a “re-elected president, not an elected candidate”, said Cilia Flores, adding that the key date was October 7 when President Chavez was elected for his fourth term.
Venezuela’s National Assembly has chosen its leader, a possible stand-in for President Hugo Chavez who is in Cuba following cancer surgery.
The assembly re-elected the incumbent Diosdado Cabello, a leading ally of Hugo Chavez.
Opposition leaders are calling for new elections if the president cannot be sworn in for his new term on Thursday.
In such a situation, Diosdado Cabello would become caretaker president pending the outcome of the vote.
Vice-President Nicolas Maduro has dismissed the opposition’s calls, saying the Supreme Court can swear in Hugo Chavez at a later date.
Diosdado Cabello’s re-election was expected in the National Assembly, which is dominated by Hugo Chavez’s governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
“The president will continue being president beyond January 10, nobody should have any doubt about that,” Diosdado Cabello said after his election, adding: “We will never defraud the people.”
Nicolas Maduro watched the vote and debate from the balcony of the chamber.
Venezuela’s National Assembly has chosen Diosdado Cabello as its new leader, a possible stand-in for President Hugo Chavez
Diosdado Cabello finds himself in a position of great power and influence.
Analysts say he is seen as a political rival to Nicolas Maduro, whom Hugo Chavez has named as his preferred successor.
However, both men have vowed to maintain unity in the PSUV. They both visited Hugo Chavez in Cuba earlier in the week, along with several other dignitaries.
Hundreds of Chavez supporters rallied outside parliament on Saturday following an appeal by Diosdado Cabello.
Information Minister Ernesto Villegas, who was among the first government officials to arrive for the vote, said: “There is a clear leadership here by Comandante Chavez who is so responsible that he has even studied the worst case scenarios.
“We have a president who has been elected from 2013 to 2019… and that will be perfectly fulfilled. Chavez is the president of Venezuela. There is no other.”
Experts have different interpretations of what it would mean if Hugo Chavez misses his inauguration.
Some in the opposition say that if Hugo Chavez is still in Cuba, power should pass to the head of the National Assembly and new elections should be held within 30 days.
But Nicolas Maduro has insisted that Thursday is not a fixed deadline and that there was no reason to declare Hugo Chavez’s “absolute absence” from office.
“The formality of his swearing-in can be resolved in the Supreme Court,” he said.
“The president right now is president.”
Hugo Chavez – who was re-elected for a fourth term in October – has not been seen in public since his latest round of surgery more than three weeks ago.
Ernesto Villegas said on Thursday that the president had suffered complications due to a lung infection and had a “respiratory insufficiency”.
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez is suffering from “complications” brought on by a “severe lung infection” which developed after surgery, officials say.
Hugo Chavez, 58, had his fourth operation for cancer in Cuba on December 11 and then developed a respiratory infection.
In a statement from Caracas, Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said the infection had “led to a respiratory insufficiency”.
Hugo Chavez is due to be sworn in for another term in office on January 10.
“[Mr.] Chavez has faced complications as a consequence of a severe lung infection,” said Ernesto Villegas.
The president has not been seen in public since having cancer surgery in Havana, prompting persistent speculation about his condition.
The information minister was among a number of Hugo Chavez’s political allies who have urged people not to believe what they called lies about his health.
Ernesto Villegas warned Venezuelans not to be taken in by a “psychological war” being fought in the media which had the “ultimate aim of destabilizing the Bolivarian republic”.
Hugo Chavez is suffering from complications brought on by a severe lung infection which developed after surgery
Vice-President Nicolas Maduro and National Assembly Head Diosdado Cabello visited Hugo Chavez this week, along with several other dignitaries.
Nicolas Maduro said on Wednesday that President Hugo Chavez was “conscious” and had gripped his hand firmly as they discussed Venezuelan politics.
He and Diosdado Cabello flew back to Caracas on Thursday and dismissed rumors of a split in the governing socialist movement.
“We’re more unified than ever,” Vice-President Nicolas Maduro said upon his return to Venezuela from Cuba.
“We swore in front of Commander Chavez that we’ll be united at the side of our people,” he said.
Opposition activists have speculated about a split between Nicolas Maduro, whom President Hugo Chavez named as his preferred successor, and Diosdado Cabello, who the constitution decrees should temporarily take over power if the Venezuelan leader were to have “an absolute absence”.
Diosdado Cabello said that those who were spreading rumours about problems between him and Nicolas Maduro would “have to wait 2,000 years for that to happen”.
Hugo Chavez has been in power since 1999 and was elected for a fourth term in office in October.
It is unclear if he will be able to attend the swearing-in ceremony for another six-year term in office next week, nor what the procedure would be if he was unable to attend.
Diosdado Cabello recently said that the ceremony could be delayed. But the opposition says such a move would be unconstitutional.
Opposition politicians say there have been no independent reports of the president’s condition.
On Thursday, Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma demanded that a commission travel to Cuba to report back on Hugo Chavez’s health.
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has improved after a cancer operation in Cuba and has started walking and exercising, country’s Vice-President Nicolas Maduro has said.
Nicolas Maduro told state TV he had spoken on the phone to HUgo Chavez, describing the call as “the best present we could get this Christmas”.
Hugo Chavez underwent his fourth cancer operation on December 11 in Cuba but suffered a respiratory infection.
President Hugo Chavez – in power since 1999 – won another term in October’s election.
Earlier, Venezuelan Information Minister Ernesto Villegas said: “The patient has shown a slight improvement in his condition.”
However, no pictures of HUgo Chavez after the surgery have been released so far.
Hugo Chavez, 58, is scheduled to be sworn in on January 10.
The lack of any word from Hugo Chavez for two weeks prior to the comments by the two senior officials raised serious concerns about his current condition and his ability to attend the swearing-in ceremony.
Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez has improved after a cancer operation in Cuba and has started walking and exercising
Bolivian President Evo Morales was in Cuba over the weekend but did not speak to reporters and a Cuban government invitation for media to cover his arrival and departure was withdrawn.
Evo Morales is expected to issue a statement later on Hugo Chavez’s condition.
The country’s constitution states that elections must be held within 30 days if there is an “absolute absence” of the president.
But National Assembly head Diosdado Cabello has said Venezuela will not call fresh elections if President Hugo Chavez is unable to be sworn in on 10 January.
Diosdado Cabello said the swearing-in ceremony would be delayed.
“Since [President] Chavez might not be here on 10 January, [the opposition] hopes the National Assembly will call elections. That’s not going to happen. Commandante Hugo Chavez will continue to be our president,” Diosdado Cabello said.
According to Diosdado Cabello, the constitution allows him to be sworn in before Supreme Court justices, but it does not stipulate when or where.
Hugo Chavez has said Venezuelans should vote for Nicolas Maduro in fresh elections, should his health fail.