Mérida, 20th November 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s National Assembly granted President Nicolas Maduro on Tuesday the power to pass laws by decree on economic and anti-corruption issues for a period of 12 months.
The National Assembly (AN) held a second and final vote on a proposal from Maduro to enact the so-called Enabling Law, which allows him to legislate by decree on specific issues for the period set by the assembly.
According to a statement released by the AN following the vote, Maduro has been empowered to pass legislation to “fight corruption, usury, money laundering and the economic war unleashed in recent times against the country by the national oligarchy”.
According to Article 1 of the legislation passed by the AN yesterday, Maduro's decree powers will be limited to the “fight against corruption” and in “defence of the economy”. Over the next year the decree powers can be rescinded at any time by the assembly, and the Enabling Law itself imposes constitutional restrictions on the president.
Maduro will also not be able to rule without the AN, as the assembly will continue to convene as usual and pass legislation.
“The president will use these special powers to enact measures that allow the unobstructed confronting of corruption and straightening out of the economic model imposed by a 'parasitic bourgeoisie' that is 'still sucking oil revenues...,” the AN statement read.
Thanking legislators for enacting the Enabling Law, yesterday afternoon Maduro told Venezuelan media the measure “will allow us to move forward in the next 12 months” in tackling both issues.
“I want to thank the National Assembly for the approval of this law that will allow us to legislate against corruption and economic war,” Maduro said yesterday.
“I am planning a ground-shaking offense against corruption from January 2014. With the Enabling Law I'll go with everything, there will be no repentance,” he stated.
Following the vote, around 2,000 government supporters marched from the AN to Miraflores Palace. AN head Diosdado Cabello led the march, which ended with the delivery of the law to Maduro.
“Let's walk to Miraflores Palace to deliver the Enabling Law to our brother Nicolas Maduro,” Cabello announced at the start of the march. At the same place on Monday, a smaller group of opposition protesters chained themselves to the gates of the congress to protest the law, and were reportedly arrested.
“They underestimated me, they said Maduro was an amateur, and what you have seen is little compared to what we're going to do to defend the people's rights,” Maduro told the crowd at Miraflores.
Today, Maduro's former rival in the 14 April presidential elections and governor of Miranda state Henrique Capriles described the passing of the law as “judicial corruption”, referring to last week's decision by the AN to strip opposition legislator Maria Aranguren of her parlaimentary immunity. Aranguren is now under investigation for embezzlement, conspiracy, and money laundering. She cannot participate in the assembly during the investigation, and her substitute backed the Enabling Law.
“They could not buy any of our legislators... how they tried, but failed and so had to resort to judicial corruption and that was the famous vote 99,” he said. Prior to Aranguren's substitution, Maduro was one vote short of the three-fifths majority support he needed to pass the law.
“This country will not kneel in front of a bunch of corrupt crooks,” Capriles stated, calling for nationwide protests on Saturday. “We say it here, Nicolas Maduro have no doubt that after December 8 we are going for you with the constitution in hand,” he said.
Capriles also blamed government economic policies for ongoing scarcity of some consumer goods and Venezuela's high inflation. However, the opposition leader said that Maduro will be unable to improve the economy by passing new laws by decree.
“Failure is not resolved with [Enabling Law] powers. Milk, paper, chicken, beef and security will not show up with this law,” he said.
"You can't beat inflation by decrees but with sensible economic policies," the opposition coalition Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) said in a statement.
However, according to constitutional lawyer Hermann Escarra, the Enabling Law will not only make it easier for Maduro to tackle corruption and the economy, but also to promote workers' rights and food sovereignty.
“Among the laws that the Enabling Law is going to work with are the exchange rate regime, public administration reform, and laws that deal with crimes and offenses that will surely be the subject of an extensive discussion,” Escarra told state broadcaster VTV.
Since first requesting the Enabling Law last August, Maduro has publically floated a slew of new legislation he hopes to pass, ranging from increasing the maximum penality for corruption charges from eight years to 20 to the creation of new dedicated teams within the public prosecutor's office to investigate economic crimes.
“Through this Enabling Law, the Maduro government will fight the illegal financing of political parties, establish rules to prevent and punish capital flight,” The AN statement read.
“In addition, [the government will] issue provisions in defence of the national currency in order to contravene the attack on it, and strengthen the financial system,” it stated.
“If it's necessary to change all the laws, we will do it,” Maduro said in August.
On Monday, Maduro told supporters that he was already prepared to pass two laws by decree as early as this week, including restricting sales profits to 15-30% and creating a new agency to oversee foreign currency exchange. The announcements come amid a government crackdown on retail price-gouging across the country. The government's consumer protection and price regulatory body Indepabis has forced some stores to drop shelf prices by as much as 60%.
However, according to Maduro, on Monday authorities found retailers imposing profit margins as high as 4000% in the capital, Caracas.
“The National President noted that the fight against corruption will boost economic freedom to ensure access of Venezuelans to goods and services,” the AN statement read.
“The prices came down and with the Enabling Law, [now] they will stay where they should,” Maduro said.