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Venezuelan Congress Appoints 17 to Supreme Court

Pro-government lawmakers in Venezuela have appointed 17 new judges to the Supreme Court, strengthening the administration of President Hugo Chavez.

In Caracas Monday, legislators from the ruling party pushed the appointments through the 165-seat Congress. Opposition leaders condemned the appointments as unconstitutional, and then walked out of the session.

Earlier this year, lawmakers approved measures that expanded the number of Supreme Court justices from 20 to 32. They also changed the rules to allow Congress to appoint judges with a simple majority, and to fire sitting justices.

Human rights groups have condemned the measures, saying they are a threat to democracy.

Among the new justices is Francisco Carrasquero, head of the nation's electoral council. Critics accuse him of helping Mr. Chavez defeat a recall in August.

Some information for this story provided by AFP and Reuters.