Venezuela court orders takeover of 2 major political parties

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FILE - In this Jan. 31, 2020 file photo, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, sitting at desk second from right, speaks with Supreme Court President Maikel Moreno at the Supreme Court before giving his annual presidential address in Caracas, Venezuela. The court ordered on Monday, June 15, 2020, the takeover of Democratic Action, one of the nations oldest and most influential political parties, which is now opposed to the government. (AP Photo/Ariana Cubillos, File)

CARACAS – Venezuela's Supreme Court, loyal to President Nicolás Maduro, on Tuesday ordered the takeover of two influential political parties opposed to the socialist government ahead of parliamentary elections expected this year.

The court suspended and replaced the board of directors for the Justice First party a day after the same move against the Democratic Action, one of the nation's oldest and largest parties. It was part of a “necessary restructuring process,” the court said in rulings posted on Facebook.

No legal action was taken, however, against Popular Will, the party of opposition leader Juan Guaidó, who seeks to oust Maduro with backing from the U.S. and nearly 60 other nations.

The political coalition opposed to the Maduro's ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela is made up of more than a dozen parties. This attempt to divide them won't succeed, Guaidó said.

“On the contrary, these actions strengthen us,” Guaidó said. “The dictatorship is going to fall, and the republic is going to be reborn.”

A once-wealthy oil nation, Venezuela is in a deepening political and economic crisis after two decades of socialist rule that has driven mass migration and scarcities of basic goods. The U.S. and scores of other nations consider Maduro’s government illegitimate and recognize Guaidó as interim president, a position he claims as head of the National Assembly.

Maduro on state TV accused opposition parties, which have controlled the National Assembly for the last five years, of robbing Venezuela of its wealth and plotting a foreign invasion aimed at ending his socialist government.

The National Assembly is the only branch of government Maduro doesn’t control. That will change with the next election, he said.