Venezuela’s National Assembly will decide today whether to grant full legislative powers to President Hugo Chávez for a year starting in January 2011. The bill is almost certain to be approved by the Chavista-majority Assembly, curbing any possibility for new legislators to be inaugurated in January 2011 to effectively influence Venezuelan policy decisions. Legislative elections held last September granted over two thirds of seats and 52 percent of the popular vote to opposition candidates summoned in the umbrella political organization Mesa de Unidad Nacional. If approved as introduced earlier in the week, the Enabling Law would allow Chávez to enable an “adequate legal framework” to finishdismantling the country’s economy. Moreover, the law would effectively strip incoming opposition legislators of any decision-making power.
Weather conditions provided an excuse to call for the special powers. Torrential rains and mudslides throughout the country have left thousands of people homeless and hundreds dead. Over 130,000 people have been affected by inclement weather. The rains have caused extensive infrastructure damage: 250 roads are intransitable, dams have broken, and several bridges have been closed. This inclement weather prompted the current Assembly and Chavéz’s government itself to usher the Enabling Law in a lame duck session. Of course, inclement weather was caused by“capitalism’s irrationality” requiring Bolivarian-inspired legislation penned by the executive office to solve these problems. Chávez will have legislative power over a broad number of issues if the Enabling Law is approved today. The president will have power to legislate on the following subjects:
- Any policy issues related to human needs and poverty derived from inclement weather conditions, as well as those derived from social conditions caused by the country’s environmental challenges
- Infrastructure, transportation, and public services
- Use of rural and urban land as well as organization of Venezuela’s territory. In other words, stripping mayors and governors (particularly those in the opposition) of their limited powers and more property expropriations
- Public and private finance and taxation
- Public security and judicial security
- Security and defense
- International cooperation
- And if the previous eight categories don’t give Chavez enough power to legislate over almost all policy areas, he would also have the power to legislate over Venezuela’s socioeconomic framework.
Although many were dispossessed by inclement weather, including the opposition, Chavez will receive a juicy gift from the outgoing Assembly.