Venezuela Parliament Approves Rule By Decree
By admin March 18, 2015


The Venezuelan parliament has passed new legislation giving President Nicolas Maduro the power to temporarily legislate by decree. The Anti-Imperialist Enabling Law will be in force until December 31st of this year. It will give Maduro the ability to bypass the Venezuelan legislature, passing new laws without their consent, for that period of time.

This new law is, in part, the latest act in a recent confrontation between the governments of Venezuela and the United States. The “Anti-Imperialist” phrase, in its name, is a reference to the U.S; when requesting the power to rule by decree before the legislature last week, President Maduro justified it as a necessary step to “confront the aggression of the most powerful country in the world, the United States, against this beautiful nation.” The “aggression” he referred to was the Obama administration’s decision, on March 9th, to place targeted sanctions on seven high-ranking Venezuelan officials whom the U.S. accused of violating human rights, and issue a new executive order declaring Venezuela a national security threat.

However, President Maduro has also claimed further reasons for the Anti-Imperialist Enabling Law: he believes it is necessary for an “offensive” against his country’s economic problems. Venezuela is currently facing inflation (a 54% annual rate), and shortages of food and other economic goods. The president blames these troubles on Venezuelan businessmen speculating, hoarding supplies, and possibly colluding with the United States. With the new law in place, he has said that he would move to restrict profit margins, and prolong a decision made earlier this month to slash prices at appliance dealers, auto mechanic stores, and toy shops. His opponents, however, have decried the new law as an attempt to concentrate power, accused him of using it to target only political enemies while turning a blind eye to corruption within his own government, and blamed Venezuela’s economic troubles not on businessmen or the United States but on the government’s own policies of expropriations, price controls, and mismanagement.

This argument is likely to escalate in light of the parliamentary elections at the end of this year. The opposition hopes that the economic crisis will persuade enough voters to remove President Maduro’s United Socialist Party (USP) after fifteen years of uninterrupted rule, particularly among poor voters who have historically supported the USP but been hit hardest by the economic crisis. President Maduro, by contrast, is likely to use the Anti-Imperialist Enabling Law to continue cutting prices and enacting other populist measures to persuade these same voters not to abandon him.

Which party will ultimately persuade the most voters remains to be seen. According to The Washington Post, however, economists do not have much hope that President Maduro’s approach will turn the economy around; government intervention has frightened away investors, while currency controls have driven up costs and encouraged the black market. So far, the President has only promised to continue or escalate similar measures, which suggests that the economy will also continue as it has before.

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