Venezuela's Maduro Appeals to Opposition Legislators to Support Bid for Decree Powers

Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has called on opposition legislators at the National Assembly (AN) to support his move to acquire decree powers under the Enabling Law.

By Ryan Mallett-Outtrim
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Maduro announced earlier this month that he would ask the National Assembly to grant him decree powers to tackle corruption (AVN)
Maduro announced earlier this month that he would ask the National Assembly to grant him decree powers to tackle corruption (AVN)

Mérida, 29th August 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro has called on opposition legislators at the National Assembly (AN) to support his move to acquire decree powers under the Enabling Law.

“I want special powers as head of state to profoundly transform the judicial system,” Maduro told state broadcaster VTV last night.

The president said that if granted decree powers, he would pass new laws to tackle crimes such as money laundering, and “strengthen all laws and penalties against corruption”. This would include increasing the maximum penalty for engaging in corruption to 20 years imprisonment. Currently, corruption charges carry a maximum penalty of eight years.

The Enabling Law allows the Venezuelan president to pass laws by decree to address a national emergency, bypassing the AN. The law can only be enabled for a set period of time, during which the assembly can rescind the special powers.

Former president Hugo Chavez was granted decree powers four times during his period in office. However, under Article 203 of the Constitution, the president can only be granted the powers by a three-fifths majority of legislators. Maduro would therefore require 99 of the 165 members of the AN to back his bid; he currently has the support of 98.

Maduro indicated that by failing to back his bid, opposition legislators would be “complicit in... corruption”.

However, over the weekend opposition leader Henrique Capriles labelled Maduro's bid as “disrespectful to the people and the republic”.

“There is already legislation in place to judge and punish the corrupt,” he said, arguing that Maduro is using the debate over the Enabling Law to distract Venezuelans from the economy. Last week, members of Capriles' opposition coalition, the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD) issued a statement claiming Maduro would use decree powers to “chase the government's political contenders” and hide “the truth of what is happening in our country”.

“This plan has been devised in Cuba so they can continue having access to Venezuelan resources,” the MUD statement read. No evidence to support the claim was presented.

Although Capriles has stated that he has “absolute trust” that no opposition legislators will support Maduro's request, a recent poll from International Consulting Services (ICS) found that 59.3 % of participants believe it is “very necessary” for Maduro to be granted decree powers under the Enabling Law. An additional 12.2 % of respondents described the measure as “fairly necessary”.

According to ICS, their latest poll interviewed 1600 Venezuelans nationwide. 44.5 % of participants agreed there is corruption in both the government and political opposition, while 58.9 % were willing to describe Maduro as “honest”.

Last week, Capriles said that if the AN does grant Maduro decree powers, “Venezuelans would disregard such law”.

Since coming to office in April, Maduro has vowed to reduce public sector corruption. So far, more than 100 arrests have been made in the nationwide anti-corruption drive, according to the attorney general's office.

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