Opposition lawmakers in the Venezuelan assembly accused President Nicolas Maduro of violating the country's constitution by delivering his state of the union address at the Supreme Court instead of the national assembly. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles slammed Maduro's move in a tweet and said that he was "a costly error in our history".
Reports suggest that according to country's constitution, Maduro needed to deliver the speech in the national assembly, but decided to snub opponents.
"This confirms that Maduro is acting outside the constitution," the new opposition speaker of the assembly Julio Borges told reporters.
However, the president defended his stand and said that he remained "committed to dialogue and to harmonious, balanced, constitutional solutions".
According to reports, opposition lawmakers had passed a motion in the assembly on 9 January and declared that Maduro had "abandoned his post" as he failed to tackle the country's economic crisis.
Maduro shot back by branding the move a "coup" attempt and launched an "anti-coup commando squad" that has arrested seven opponents so far. In his defence, Maduro stated that he hoped to address the assembly next year as the apex court allowed him to deliver his speech to judges in the Supreme Court.
"It is public knowledge that I am fully exercising my constitutional duties day after day," Maduro said at the starting of his televised address and accepted that Venezuela's economy had crashed as oil exports had "become unviable" because of a sharp drop in global prices.
Stating that revenues from oil exports declined from $48bn (£39.4bn) in 2008 to $5.3bn in 2016, he noted that he would approach oil producers next week to discuss oil prices.
"Venezuela, as of next week, will circulate a letter with a new proposal, a new formula for the stability of real and just prices so that it can be studied and debated by all the governments that have signed this deal," he said in his speech on Sunday (15 January).
The president also said that he was postponing the decision to withdraw highest denomination banknotes – the 100 bolivars – from circulation until 20 February. Maduro added new notes would begin circulating on 16 January.