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Last Updated: Friday, 19 January 2007, 10:16 GMT
Rule by decree passed for Chavez
Hugo Chavez
President Chavez has vowed to deepen his "Bolivarian revolution"
Venezuela's National Assembly has given initial approval to a bill granting the president the power to bypass congress and rule by decree for 18 months.

President Hugo Chavez says he wants "revolutionary laws" to enact sweeping political, economic and social changes.

He has said he wants to nationalise key sectors of the economy and scrap limits on the terms a president can serve.

Mr Chavez began his third term in office last week after a landslide election victory in December.

The bill allowing him to enact laws by decree is expected to win final approval easily in the assembly on its second reading on Tuesday.

Venezuela's political opposition has no representation in the National Assembly since it boycotted elections in 2005.


Mr Chavez approved 49 laws by decree during the first year of his previous term, after the assembly passed a similar "Enabling Law" in November 2000.

Now the president says an Enabling Law is a key step in what he calls an accelerating march toward socialism.

He has said he wants to see major Venezuelan power and telecoms companies come under state control.

Mr Chavez also called for an end to foreign ownership of lucrative crude oil refineries in the Orinoco region.

Critics of the president accuse him of trying to build an authoritarian regime with all institutional powers consolidated into his own hands.

But, National Assembly President Cilia Flores said "there will always be opponents, and especially when they know that these laws will deepen the revolution".

Campaigning for the elections last year, Mr Chavez vowed he would strengthen his "Bolivarian revolution", named after the 19th-Century Latin American independence fighter.

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