WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department on Thursday condemned the Venezuelan Supreme Court's takeover of the functions of the National Assembly as a "serious setback for democracy in Venezuela."
Venezuela's top court said late on Wednesday it was assuming the National Assembly's role in a ruling authorizing President Nicolas Maduro to create oil joint ventures without the previously mandated congressional approval.
"This rupture of democratic and constitutional norms greatly damages Venezuela's democratic institutions and denies the Venezuelan people the right to shape their country's future through their elected representatives," State Department acting spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
"We call for the government of Venezuela to permit the democratically-elected National Assembly to perform its constitutional functions, hold elections as soon as possible, and immediately release all political prisoners."
(Reporting by Yeganeh Torbati; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama)