[JURIST] The Venezuelan National Assembly [official website, in Spanish] gave preliminary approval Thursday to a measure that would allow Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez [official website, in Spanish; BBC profile] to rule by decree for 18 months. The initial vote was unanimous and the measure is expected to pass easily next week when it comes up again in the Chavez-dominated legislature.
Since winning his third re-election late last year, 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. AP has more.