CARACAS, March 30 (Reuters) – Venezuela’s Supreme Court said it would take over the opposition-led Congress’s role because the legislature is in “contempt,” sparking accusations that President Nicolas Maduro’s administration is becoming a dictatorship.

The pro-Maduro court has annulled many of the National Assembly’s decisions since the opposition won a majority in late 2015 but had stopped short of explicitly stating that it was taking over its functions.

Late on Wednesday, however, it did just that when laying out its reasoning in authorizing Maduro to create oil joint ventures, overruling the standard legal procedure which requires congressional approval.

“As long as the situation of contempt in the National Assembly continues, this constitutional chamber guarantees congressional functions will be exercised by this chamber or another chosen organ,” the court said in a ruling.

The contempt charge stems from vote-buying accusations against three lawmakers from southern Amazonas state. Even though they no longer sit in the legislature, the court says parliamentary leaders have not handled their case properly.

Maduro critics say the charges are an excuse for the government to muzzle the opposition during a mounting economic crisis in the oil-rich country.

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