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Oct 12, 4:58 PM EDT

Venezuela top court: President can bypass Congress on budget

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Critics of Venezuela's socialist administration are denouncing as undemocratic a move to bypass Congress' role in approving the country's budget.

The South American country's top court ruled on Wednesday that it could approve President Nicolas Maduro's budget instead of the opposition-controlled Congress. The court has systematically dismantled Congress' power after the opposition took control of the body in January.

Congress President Henry Ramos says the ruling reflects the court's "criminal attitude."

Judges said the change in which body approves the budget was needed to guarantee constitutional order. Maduro would surely have faced a fight with opposition leaders in Congress to get his agenda through.

Also on Wednesday, opposition leaders held small rallies around the country to demand that the government allow a recall referendum against Maduro to proceed this year.

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