Published On: Tue, Nov 19th, 2013

Venezuela president granted sweeping powers

President Maduro has taken on new powers to tackle corruption as opponents accuse him of a power grab.

Maduro_CabelloCARACAS - Venezuela's National Assembly has granted President Nicolas Maduro wide-ranging special powers to rule by decree for one year so that he can fix the economy.

Tuesday’s vote over the Enabling Law is the latest move by the elected Venezuelan leader, a protégé of the late President Hugo Chavez, to strengthen his hand as he faces an important political test in municipal elections next month.

The law will essentially allow the president to create laws without parliamentary approval.

The socialist president says he needs greater personal power to stamp out opponents who are waging “economic warfare against his government” as the country struggles with soaring inflation and shortages of basic goods.

"He has to tackle an economy in free fall," Al Jazeera's Andy Gallacher said, reporting from Caracas.

"People are really struggling to buy normal household goods."

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

Currency shortage

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 might otherwise have been out of reach.

The country has been repeatedly battered by a 54 percent inflation rate, a shortage of hard currency and basic goods.

Critics, however, blame Venezuela’s economic hardship on the government-imposed fixed exchange rate and price controls which they say have led to a shortage of basic goods such as rice and meat.

The National Assembly's vote to approve the so-called Enabling Law had been widely expected after Maduro garnered the two-thirds support he needed, or 99 votes, during a preliminary debate last week.

The move added to the opposition's speculation that this was a thinly veiled power grab.

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