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Fri Nov 15, 2013 4:30PM
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro

Venezuela’s legislature has voted to back President Nicolas Maduro's bid to rule by decree, a measure which would give him expanded powers over the economy. In an initial vote, 99 out of 165 members of Venezuela’s National Assembly supported the bid that would allow the president to rule by decree, without having to seek parliamentary approval. A second vote to give final passage to the measure is set for November 19. Maduro requested the special powers last month, arguing that the special authority is needed to fight corruption and combat opponents who are waging “economic warfare” against his government. The president has said the special powers would be used to impose caps on private sector profits and to crack down on speculators and would allow him “to protect wages, keep an eye on costs, protect price controls and put reasonable limits on profits, at every step of the economic ladder.” On November 9, Maduro used his existing authority to force electrical appliance retailers to cut prices, sending troops to keep rising prices under control. Maduro accused the retailers of pricing products over 1,000 percent of cost, saying, “This robbery of the people has to stop.” The retailers’ prices were discounted up to 60 percent, and Maduro has stated that the move would also be extended to other products such as cars, clothing and toys. According to Maduro, the Venezuelan right-wingers backed by the United States have waged an economic war to bring down his government. He said the plot is meant to cause food shortage, rising inflation, and the theft of government-supplied foreign exchange at the time when the country is facing serious economic problems. In March, Caracas expelled two US military attaches, saying they were trying to foment instability in Venezuela. Washington also angered Caracas by supporting Venezuelan opposition leader Henrique Capriles, who disputed the results of the April presidential election, in which Maduro won the race with 50.7 percent of the vote against 49.1 percent for Capriles. CAH/AB
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