Venezuela congress set to grant Hugo Chavez decree power

Critics say it will give the president a blank check and undermine the upcoming opposition-heavy congress

Topics: Foreign policy, Latin America,

Venezuelan lawmakers are set to grant President Hugo Chavez broad powers to rule by decree, undermining the clout of a new congress that takes office next month with a bigger opposition bloc.

The leftist leader’s opponents are condemning the plan as a power grab, saying the law will be a blank check for Chavez to rule without consulting lawmakers.

Chavez has defended it, saying he will use the power to decree laws for one year to speed up the response to deadly floods and landslides.

The National Assembly began a final debate Friday on the law.

A new congress goes into session Jan. 5 with an opposition contingent large enough to hinder approval of some types of major legislation.

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