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Venezuela congress grants President Maduro sweeping new powers

The Venezuelan congress has granted President Maduro emergency decree powers which enable him to enact laws without consulting congress for 12 months. Maduro's opponents view the new measures as a power grab.

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Maduro granted decree powers

The Venezuelan National Assembly voted to approve the yearlong decree powers for the socialist president on Tuesday, which he had argued were essential to tackling corruption and regulating Venezuela's embattled economy.

"I want to thank the majority of patriotic and socialist lawmakers for approving this law that will let us advance, over the next 12 months, in defeating the economic war being waged against our people," Maduro said.

The president called on congress to pass the Enabling Act last month in order to stamp out opponents who he has accused of waging “economic warfare" against the country. Venezuela is currently battling soaring inflation, now at 54 percent, a shortage of hard currency, and widespread shortages of basic goods.

The passage of the new powers was widely expected. His predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez, who died earlier this year, passed nearly 200 laws by decree during his time in office which drastically boosted state control over the economy and influence over the Supreme Court.

Maduro's economic model 'does not work'

Maduro, 50, has said he could decree the first new laws as soon as Wednesday. One is intended to cap private sector profits at 15 percent, instead of 30, as part of an "economic offensive" against price-gouging. Another would see the creation of a new state body to monitor dollar sales by Venezuela's currency control board.

In what may be a preview of more shock measures to come, Maduro used his existing powers over the weekend to make retail stores slash the prices of their goods by up to 60 percent, sending in troops when unruly crowds quickly formed. More than 100 business owners have also been arrested in recent days for alleged price gouging.

The new powers are a political victory for Maduro ahead of municipal elections on December 8.

His critics have argued, however, that the new powers represent a thinly veiled power grab.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles said the assembly's move was a "fraud against Venezuelans."

Capriles, who refused to concede defeat to Maduro in April's tight presidential election, said the president was "a failed Cuban-style puppet, who aims to impose upon us an economic model that does not work."

ccp/av (Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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