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Chavez granted power to rule by decree for 18 months

[JURIST] The Venezuelan legislature unanimously approved a bill Wednesday granting Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] authority to enact laws by presidential decree without legislative approval for the next 18 months. The same measure received initial approval [JURIST report] by the Venezuelan National Assembly last week.

Since winning his third re-election last December, Chavez has called for "revolutionary laws" to transform Venezuela [JURIST news archive] into a socialist state. He has announced plans to nationalize important sectors of the economy, including mining, telecommunications, natural gas and electricity. Chavez hopes to re-write the constitution [text] to abolish presidential term limits, allowing him to run for a fourth term in 2012. Another measure would eliminate the autonomy of the Central Bank [official website, in Spanish] authority and end foreign ownership of Venezuela's crude oil refineries, a major source of oil for the United States. Critics say that Wednesday's vote cedes too much power to Chavez at the expense of the legislative bodies. AP has more.

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