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Monday, 25 September, 2000, 22:15 GMT 23:15 UK
Chavez pushes for extra powers
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Chavez says Venezuela's Congress is bogged down with legislation

By Peter Greste in Caracas

The Venezuelan Government has been putting the final touches to a bill giving President Hugo Chavez sweeping powers to pass legislation by decree.

The new powers are expected to be approved by Mr Chavez's supporters in congress, who hold a majority of seats.

The president has said he needs the power to take pressure off congress, which he says is tied up in an extensive legislative programme.


Critics say reforms to more central areas, like the oil taxation system and land legislation, are too important to approve without debate

But his critics say it unnecessarily concentrates powers in the hands of one man.

When Hugo Chavez first won Venezuela's presidency almost two years ago, he asked for and received extraordinary new powers to rule by decree.

Towards dictatorship

Then he said it was aimed at overcoming economic and social crisis left by the country's former rulers, though his critics accused him of moving towards a dictatorship.

Now he has done it again. This time Mr Chavez has asked for the authority to fast-track a package of 31 laws in five areas of national life, from finance and economics to social affairs.

The package includes very specific legislation dealing with areas like the rice and sugar industries.

It also covers the banking sector and land distribution.

Too important

Mr Chavez argues that the country cannot wait for congress to pass the legislation covering these areas.

But his critics say reforms to more central areas, like the oil taxation system and land legislation, are too important to approve without debate.

One economist described the move as unnecessary and negative. Another said it shifted the country closer to a de facto dictatorship.

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See also:

10 Aug 00 | Middle East
Defiant Chavez arrives in Iraq
01 Aug 00 | Americas
Chavez promises revolutionary change
31 Jul 00 | Americas
Chavez: Visionary or demagogue?
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