Caracas, 16th March 2015 (Venezuelanalysis) - Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro looks set to pass landmark legislation aimed at shielding the country from continued US aggression, after the Venezuelan parliament approved his request for temporary decree powers on Sunday.
Officially submitted to parliament last week, the petition was a response to the release of an Executive Order from the White House which classified Venezuela as an “extraordinary threat to U.S. national security”. The designation was preceded by a series of sanctions against Venezuelan officials enacted by the Obama administration, which cited unsubstantiated allegations of human rights abuses.
Venezuela and almost all countries in the Latin American region have interpreted the move as an act of interference and aggression.
“The president is within his rights to preserve the peace of the Republic,” declared the President of the National Assembly, Diosdado Cabello, adding that the law would allow the Maduro to have the “tools at hand, both legal and constitutional, in order to defend the homeland whenever necessary."
Entitled the "Anti-Imperialist Enabling Law for Peace", the latest decree powers will last for a period of nine months and allow the president to pass legislation in pre-established areas without parliamentary debate and consent - a process which can take several years.
According to the draft presented by Maduro to parliament, the four articles which make up the law are designed to “prepare the country for any eventuality”.
Initially written into Venezuela’s Constitution in 1961, the enabling laws are often used when the president is deemed to be responding to a situation which requires immediate action. Nonetheless, they require at least 60% approval from the National Assembly and consent from a designated specialist commission.
The laws have subsequently been used by several Venezuelan presidents, including former president Hugo Chavez in 1999, 2000, 2007 and 2010.
President Maduro last made use of the laws in 2013 in order to pass a slew of anti-corruption legislation, for which he was condemned by the Obama administration for allegedly overstepping his boundaries as chief executive. However, critics have fired back that Obama's own executive orders targetting Venezuela with sanctions do not, by contrast, require legislative approval.
Although few details are known about the prospective laws, on Sunday Cabello confirmed that the government was looking to create a norm in order to “repatriate all Venezuelan capital” being held in the U.S.
“Whoever has cash, any state functionary, or anyone linked to the state, who has capital in the United States, may they have the courage to justify it, because if they don’t, they are committing criminal offences with public money,” he stated.
The law’s approval was accompanied by military drills and a mass civic-military and anti-imperialist march over the weekend.
While legislators from the ruling United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) voted unanimously in favour of the law, its use was opposed by all but one opposition legislator. A dissident from the opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity, Ricardo Sanchez, stated that his defence of the law came down to “whether we are prepared to defend the sacred soil or whether we will be collaborators with foreign boots."
“If this (executive order) isn’t the preamble to a military intervention, then it certainly looks like one,” stated the legislator to private press.
Many opposition politicians have longstanding ties to the United States, and some parties such as Voluntad Popular (The Popular Will party) have received funding from US "democracy promotion" organisations such as the NED (National Endowment Democracy) and USAID (U.S. Agency for International Development).