The official reason for the move was to allow the leader to deal with the devastating aftermath of weeks of floods.
CARACAS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has been granted power to rule by decree for 18 months by his followers in parliament, The Telegraph reports. His critics said the move turns the country into a near-dictatorship. It comes just two weeks before a new national assembly is sworn in with a larger opposition bloc that could have frustrated some of his plans to create a socialist state.
The firebrand leader had only asked his allies for the right to govern without referring to congress for a year. Instead, they handed him the powers for 18 months as proof of their “revolutionary commitment”, said Cilia Flores, the national assembly president. The official reason for the move was to allow Chavez to deal with the devastating aftermath of weeks of floods by fast-tracking tax increases and funding for construction of new homes. But amid a fresh wave of nationalisations of farms and businesses, he has already outlined a long list of new laws that extend far beyond relief and reconstruction. He taunted the incoming opposition congressmen in a television address. “You won’t be able to make a single law, little Yankees,” he said, deploying one of his favourite insults, which depicts his opponents as American stooges.
“We’re going to see how you make laws now.” The 18-month period means the opposition will be blocked from any significant role in Venezuelan politics until just months before the 2012 presidential election. The lame-duck parliament dominated by Chavez allies is also planning a revised “Social Responsibility Law” which would impose tough regulations on the internet and ban online messages “that could incite or promote hatred,” create “anxiety” in the population or “disrespect public authorities”. The country’s broadcast media already faces similar controls.
The law granting presidential decree powers – for the fourth time in his nearly 12-year presidency – also will allow him to enact measures involving telecommunications, the banking system, information technology, the military, rural and urban land use and the country’s “socio-economic system.”