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Venezuela’s High Court Replaces Opposition Party Leadership 

FILE - Lawmaker Jose Brito tells the press he supports fellow lawmaker Luis Parra as the legislature's president, after Parra's press conference at the National Assembly in Caracas, Venezuela, Jan. 6, 2020.

Venezuela’s Supreme Court has removed the leadership of two political parties opposed to Socialist President Nicolas Maduro and replaced them with politicians reportedly tied to Maduro months ahead of legislative elections.

The court installed lawmaker Jose Brito as head of the Justice First party on Tuesday, a day after expelling the leadership of the Democratic Action party and replacing it with long-time party activist Bernabe Gutierrez. The Democratic Action party issued a statement Tuesday that it had expelled Gutierrez for conspiring “with different factions of the Nicolas Maduro regime.”

Brito was expelled from Justice First back in December following accusations that he was involved in an influence peddling scandal.

The action by the Supreme Court, widely believed by many to be friendly to President Maduro, follows an earlier decision to name members of the National Electoral Council, ignoring a constitutional mandate that places that responsibility with the National Assembly.

Opposition leader Juan Guaido, who heads the National Assembly, said last Saturday it would not recognize the “false” electoral authority.

Maduro has overseen a six-year economic crisis in Venezuela. More than 50 countries, including the United States, have indicated their support for opposition leader Guaido as the country’s rightful leader after a disputed election in 2018, but Maduro maintains control of Venezuela’s military.

The elections will be held later this year, but no date has been set.