Venezuela gives Maduro power to rule by decree for a year

By Agence France-Presse
Tuesday, November 19, 2013 17:55 EDT
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Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro speaks in front of a painting depicting late president Hugo Chavez (C) and Latin American independence hero Simon Bolivar, during a press conference in Caracas on Nov. 15, 2013. [AFP]
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Venezuela’s National Assembly on Tuesday gave President Nicolas Maduro wide-ranging special powers to rule by decree for one year.

The socialist president of the OPEC member state says he needs the greater personal power as his government struggles with soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods.

Maduro requested the special powers last month, citing the need to fight corruption and take on opponents who are waging “economic warfare” against his government.

Maduro, 50, has said he will use the expanded powers to impose caps on private sector profits and crack down on speculators.

The vote is the latest move by the elected Venezuelan leader, a protege of late president Hugo Chavez, to strengthen his hand as he faces an important political test in municipal elections next month.

Over the weekend, Maduro used his existing authority to make retail appliance stores slash prices, sending troops to keep order among the unruly crowds that quickly formed.

The deep discounts of as much as 60 percent — which Maduro has said would be extended to toys, cars and clothing — come as workers cash their year end pay bonuses, allowing them to make purchases that otherwise might have been out of reach.

Venezuela has been battered by a 54 percent rate of inflation, a shortage of hard currency, and widespread shortages.

Critics however blame Venezuela’s economic woes on the government-imposed fixed exchange rate and price controls, saying they have led to a lack of basic goods such as toilet paper, rice and meat.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who refused to concede defeat to Maduro in April’s presidential election, has called the parliamentary move a “fraud against Venezuelans.”

Capriles called Maduro “a failed Cuban-style puppet, who aims to impose upon us an economic model that does not work.”

[Image via Agence France-Presse]

Agence France-Presse
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