Venezuela's parliament has granted President Nicolas Maduro decree powers for the rest of 2015 in a move he says is to defend the country from US meddling but opponents decry as evidence of autocracy. In a noisy National Assembly session, ruling Socialist Party legislators, who have a majority, applauded the Enabling Law as a legitimate response to a US declaration that Venezuela is a security threat and sanctions on seven officials.
”They (the United States) want to stick their hands into Venezuela's wealth, just as they have done in other countries, ruling party legislator Tania Diaz said, presenting the anti-imperialist Enabling Law to parliament.
Outside, red-clad Maduro supporters chanted and held placards proclaiming: Yankees go home.
In their speeches, angry opposition lawmakers said Maduro was cynically exploiting the diplomatic flare-up with Washington to amass powers, justify repression and distract Venezuelans from economic problems including acute shortages.
Corrupt ones, your trips to Disney World are over, tweeted opposition leader Henrique Capriles, referring to the US visa ban on seven Venezuelan officials whom Washington accuses of corruption and human rights abuses.
The Venezuelan people are not stupid. This (US measure) is against you, not against Venezuela.
The US move has triggered daily denunciations from Maduro, a series of anti-imperialist rallies, military exercises, and a proliferation of graffiti condemning gringo” interference.
It has also overshadowed Venezuelans' disquiet at suffering the highest inflation in the Americas, long queues for food and medicines, and shortages of many basic products.
Maduro, a 52-year-old former union activist and foreign minister who won election to replace Hugo Chavez in 2013, had seen his ratings dive on the economic crisis but pollsters believe he may get a nationalist bounce during the US spat.
Both the government and the opposition coalition are preparing for a vote later in the year to elect a new National Assembly. The date has not yet been set.
Sunday's measure was the second time Maduro has been empowered by an Enabling Law during his two-year rule.