The Venezuelan supreme court ruled on Monday in favor of the Nicolás Maduro-helmed government in stripping opposition lawmaker María Corina Machado of her seat in the national assembly, writing that Machado had violated the Venezuelan constitution in serving as Panama’s alternative ambassador at a mid-March Organization of American States (OAS) summit.  Machado had accepted the offer from Panama’s conservative government in order to speak about the situation since opposition protests erupted in February; the ambassadors voted first to keep the summit closed to the press and then to keep Machado from addressing the topic. 

The court found that her role at the summit was “in clear contradiction with her duties as a Venezuelan and as an assemblywomen” and in violation of two articles of the country’s constitution.  One article prohibits representatives from accepting “public posts…except for teaching, academic, temporary and care-giving positions”, while the other bans public officials from accepting “posts, honors or rewards from a foreign government without authorization from the National Assembly”.  Corina Machado rejected the ruling, telling El Universal in an interview that she had not fulfilled a post, but rather “the right to have a say by way of a mechanism that takes into account the rules of that summit”. 

Corina Machado, who first made her name for her lead role in organizing a failed 2004 referendum on the presidency of Hugo Chávez and was elected representative of a Caracas district in 2010, also addressed a crowd which had assembled in protest of the court’s decision on Tuesday afternoon.  The deputy said her ouster from her seat amounted to “a crime without precedent in popular sovereignty” and called recent moves by the government to arrest opposition lawmakers evidence of “a full-on coup d’état”.  Following her remarks, the crowd headed toward the national assembly building before federal police blocked their way and forced them to disperse using tear gas and rubber bullets.