Venezuela's Maduro called 'dictator' after Congress stripped

Venezuela's socialist president Nicolas Maduro was branded a "dictator" and accused of staging a "coup d'état" after the nation's highest court took power away from Congress.

VENEZUELA (REUTERS) - Venezuela plunged further into chaos on Thursday (March 30) - with some calling President Nicolas Maduro's latest actions nothing short of a coup d'etat.

The nation's highest court, the Supreme Court, stripped Congress of its powers, with members of the National Assembly clashing with national guardsmen outside the Court.

Some opposition leaders branded Maduro a dictator, saying the Venezuelan court had dealt the final blows to democracy in the country.

Assembly President Julio Borges called the action nothing less than a government takeover.

"It is a coup in every possible way. It is a dictatorship and the entire world needs to help Venezuela right now sound the alarm in every democratic nation of the world," said National Assembly President Julio Borges.

Venezuela's Latin American neighbours voicing outrage at what is largely being seen as Maduro's move to seize more power as he grapples with dismal approval ratings brought on by a severe recession, soaring inflation and acute shortages of food and medicine.

But Maduro is defending the court's decisions, including the latest: stripping Congress of the power to authorise him to create oil joint ventures; leaving Maduro alone to make or break deals, which impact the entire country.

The opposition is threatening a new round of protests this weekend. Previous demonstrations have drawn hundreds of thousands out into the streets.