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Saved by the bell: Court defends Venezuela president against trial threat

The opposition majority in the legislature had vowed to stage a kind of impeachment trial against Maduro, who has resisted its other efforts to remove him from office.

Venezuela's high court ordered the opposition on Tuesday to drop plans for a political trial against President Nicolas Maduro, whose rivals blame him for food shortages in the volatile country.

The opposition majority in the legislature had vowed to stage a kind of impeachment trial against Maduro, who has resisted its other efforts to remove him from office.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday responded with the latest in a series of judgments overruling the National Assembly legislature.

It said in the ruling that it "is ordering the deputies in the National Assembly to desist from continuing with the planned political trial."

The center right-dominated opposition says the socialist president controls the court and electoral authorities through his allies.

Authorities have blocked the opposition's drive for a referendum on removing Maduro from power. The court has systematically overruled the assembly since the opposition majority took its seats there in January.

The opposition MUD coalition launched Vatican-backed negotiations with the government this month in a bid to ease the crisis.

But Maduro has refused to discuss holding any kind of vote on his fate before scheduled elections in 2018.

The MUD blames his economic management for the crisis, sparked by falling prices for Venezuela's essential oil exports.

Maduro says the crisis is the result of a US-backed capitalist conspiracy.

Shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies have sparked riots and looting over recent months.

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