The president of Venezuela's Supreme Court has resigned in protest.
She says the court has "committed suicide" by caving in to a new constitutional assembly controlled by supporters of President Hugo Chavez.
Cecilia Sosa said she resigned late on Monday after the assembly's decision to give itself extensive new powers to hire and fire judges and overhaul the courts.
Sosa said the assembly's decision contradicted an earlier court ruling that the assembly's mission should be limited to only writing a new constitution for Venezuela.
Since taking office in February, Hugo Chavez, a former paratrooper who led a failed 1992 coup, has come under fire for concentrating power in his own hands and in the assembly.
The assembly was created to write a new constitution for Venezuela.... but controversially Chavez has since declared it to be the top power of the nation.
Chavez supporters - including his wife, his brother and five of his former cabinet ministers - hold 121 of the assembly's 131 seats.
The assembly declared a judicial emergency last week and gave itself the power to fire judges and carry out other reforms.
Critics said the court's ruling on Monday would give Chavez even more power.
On Tuesday, Cecilia Sosa, president of the Supreme Court resigned.
"It only remains to thank you all - all you who have presided over the election of the Supreme Court from 98/99.
SUPERCAPTION: Cecilia Sosa, Former president of Venezuela's Supreme Court
Sosa criticised the capitulation of the opposition-controlled Congress which has gone into recess until October to avoid a confrontation with the assembly.
The assembly may declare a legislative emergency this week.
That move could turn over most of Congress's functions to the assembly.
"With the position of the Constitutional National Assembly and the submission of the Court to its desires - the last vestiges of constitutional and legal control that we have in Venezuela have been taken away. Only the Constitutional Assembly remains. I have to also denounce the tradition of the Congress of the Republic and of the democratic political parties. They have not only resurrected the remains of a dying regime - but they have also signalled to the president of the Republic that they accept his actions. They have abandoned their own Constitional duties in all ways - and have bypassed one of the fundamental branches of government - the Congress. For these reasons perhaps I understand the rationale of the Supreme Court but I cannot condone it. I have to announce publically what I put up with until yesterday. With regard to my position until the Supreme Court hands over the new constitution, with profound pain, I have to say to the people of Venezuela and the world to - forgive me - but I cannot participate in something that contradicts democracy. If the constitutional assembly has the powers to dissolve the Supreme Court, I cannot participate in a farce of the Supreme Court. To put it bluntly, the court has committed suicide to avoid being assassinated. But the result is the same. It is dead."
SUPER CAPTION: Cecilia Sosa, Former president of Venezuela's Supreme Court
"The judicial power will be not weakened and it will continue to reach as far and as deep as it did previously. Nothing will interfere with its independent judicial powers."
SUPER CAPTION: Luis Miquelena President of Constitional Assembly
Chavez has said he wants to bring a "social revolution" to this nation of 23 (m) million people.
His supporters say the assembly's hardline actions are aimed at forcing reforms that most Venezuelans agree are necessary - but have been blocked for years by corrupt politicians and judicial authorities.
Under the judicial emergency, the assembly could suspend or dismiss nearly half of Venezuela's judges because of pending accusations of corruption or other irregularities.