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Venezuela's Supreme Court on Monday declared that the new opposition-dominated congress' decisions are void until it unseats three barred lawmakers, bringing the country closer to a showdown over power in the legislature.

Opponents of the socialist revolution launched by Hugo Chavez took control of congress for the first time in 17 years last week. The high court barred three opposition lawmakers from taking their seats to give officials time to look into allegations of electoral fraud.

That ruling angered members of the opposition, who called it an attempt to undermine their historic victory in legislative elections in December, and they swore the lawmakers in anyway. They accuse the Supreme Court of being an arm of President Nicolas Maduro's socialist government and of seeking to steal away its two-thirds majority in congress with the ruling.

On Monday, the court upped the ante in the confrontation by ordering congress to unseat the three deputies from the remote state of Amazonas. It ruled that all its actions are null in the meantime.

The decision, which applies to "all acts that have been taken or will be taken" by the new congress, seems to render the body powerless for now. The congress has not yet passed any legislation.

Some in the opposition denounced it as a coup and vowed to continue defying the court.


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