The so-called special powers permit Mr. Maduro, a socialist, to make laws aimed at fighting corruption and regulating the economy, but critics say that in practice those areas are broad enough that there may be few limits over the reach of his decrees, The New York Times reports.
“With this Enabling Law we are following an order by President Chavez,” said Diosdado Cabello, president of the National Assembly. “He told us to pass all the laws necessary to wring the necks of the speculators and the money launderers.”
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles called the assembly’s move a “fraud against Venezuelans” and described Maduro as “a failed Cuban-style puppet, who aims to impose upon us an economic model that does not work.”
The government’s latest measures were designed more to shore up Maduro than to fix the economy, said Mauricio Roitman, an economist at the Central University of Venezuela. “You can’t blame others for the mistakes that you make,” he said.
Maduro says he has already planned the first two laws he would decree – maybe as soon as Wednesday, Reuters reports:
One is intended to limit businesses’ profit margins to 15 percent to 30 percent as part of a state “economic offensive” against price-gouging. Another would create a new state body to oversee dollar sales by Venezuela’s currency control regime.
Maduro’s original justification for the decree powers was to widen a crackdown on corruption, drawing skepticism from critics who say he zealously targets opposition officials while turning a blind eye to the worst of state-linked graft.
“Why don’t you punish people who have not complied with the (existing) laws? You want the Enabling Law to concentrate power,” one opposition leader, Julio Borges, accused “Chavista” lawmakers during a charged debate ahead of the vote.
Maduro said he will use decrees to protect people from the “parasitic bourgeoisie,” which he accuses of hoarding goods and overcharging customers, Bloomberg reports.
He will pass populist measures to regain support eroded by the fastest inflation in the world ahead of Dec. 8 municipal elections, David Smilde, a sociology professor at the University of Georgia, told Bloomberg:
The proportion of Venezuelans that perceive the economic situation as negative rose about 20 percentage points to 72 percent since April, Barclays PLC said in a Nov. 12 report, citing a Datanalisis poll taken from Sept. 23 to Oct. 2. The margin of error wasn’t provided.
Inflation (VNVPIYOY) in Caracas soared to 54 percent in the 12 months through October, the fastest pace in 16 years. Lack of dollars has led to shortages of everything from flour to car parts in a country that imports 70 percent of the goods it consumes.
“Maduro can now put out laws behind closed doors, without consulting the opposition or his own coalition,” said Smilde. “From a democratic perspective it’s undesirable, because it reduces the public’s ability to oversee and counteract what the government wants to do.”
Although Venezuela is one of the world’s major oil powers, having generated billions of dollars to funnel to social programs, economists say the state oil company is so financially hobbled it is unable to extricate the country from its economic doldrums, Emilia Diaz-Struck and Juan Forero report for The Washington Post:
Still, forcing businessmen to slash prices has struck a chord that could help buoy the government ahead of the Dec. 8 elections for mayors and city council members.
Maduro is looking to “present himself as being stronger, and that he is accompanying the people in this crisis,” said Luis Vicente León.
“This is to demolish the idea that he is weak,” León said. “He does this with populist actions that can connect him to the people.”