(by Patrick Goodenough, CNSNews.com) - Venezuelan lawmakers loyal to President Hugo Chavez Wednesday approved a measure granting the U.S.-baiting left-wing leader authority to rule by decree for the next 18 months.
Members of the National Assembly – all of whom are Chavez supporters since opposition politicians boycotted legislative elections in December 2005 – agreed in an extraordinary session to allow the president have the power he wants in order to push through steps to transform Venezuela into a socialist state, including nationalization of key industries.
For the next year-and-a-half, Chavez will be able to pass decrees that will be law unless overturned by congressional vote – an unlikely scenario, given the makeup of the legislature.
According to El Universal, a popular newspaper in Caracas, “The new law bestows authority on President Chavez to rule on the 11 most sensitive areas in Venezuela, including energy, the mainstay of the domestic economy, which Chavez ordered to nationalize ‘in its entirety.'”
Other sectors covered by the law include security, defense, economy, finance and culture.
Chavez has been in power since 1999 and early last month won a new six-year term. He reportedly plans to change the constitution to eliminate presidential term limits.
“He has been trying to export his kind of radical populism and I think that his behavior is threatening to democracies in the region,” incoming Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee confirmation hearing Tuesday.
The Council on Hemispheric Affairs, a group sympathetic to Chavez, in a recent press release predicted that U.S. policy towards Venezuela would “harden” under Negroponte, who is currently the administration’s national intelligence director.
Venerated by left-wingers across the globe, Chavez has become increasingly outspoken in his hostility towards the U.S., and at the United Nations last fall called President Bush “the devil.”
Chavez has also drawn close to Iran’s controversial President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, locked in a dispute with the West over a nuclear energy program the U.S. believes is a cover for attempts to build nuclear bombs.
Like his mentor, Cuba’s ailing President Fidel Castro, Chavez looks to Moscow for military aid against what he says is a security threat posed by the U.S.
Caracas last year signed $3 billion worth of contracts to buy 30 Russian military airplanes, more than 50 helicopters and 100,000 assault rifles.
And Russia’s Interfax news agency reported Wednesday that Venezuela is now also negotiating with the Russians to buy anti-aircraft missile systems identical to those Moscow recently delivered to Tehran.
Iran wanted the weaponry in a rush in case the U.S. or Israel launches an air strike against its nuclear facilities. The State Department said the sale of the Tor-M1 system could result in the U.S. imposing new sanctions against Russia.
Designated SA-15 Gauntlet by NATO, the Russian-built system is capable of identifying up to 48 targets and tracing and firing missiles at two targets simultaneously, at a height of up to 6,000 meters.
Chavez said last year he would buy sophisticated anti-aircraft defense systems to protect Venezuela against any attempted attack.
First posted at CNSNews on Jan. 31st. Reprinted here with permission from Cybercast News Service. Visit the website at CNSNews.com.
1. a) List the countries that border Venezuela.
b) Name the capital and president of Venezuela.
c) What type of government has Venezuela had for the past 40 years?
2. a) Define “rule by decree.”
b) What will it mean to Venezuela for Hugo Chavez to rule by decree?
3. a) Why did Venezuela’s legislative branch (called the National Assembly) pass a law allowing Hugo Chavez to rule by decree?
b) In your opinion, was it a good idea for Chavez’s political opponents to boycott the 2005 elections? Explain your answer.
4. List the areas named in the article that are among those Chavez will be able to rule on under the new law.
5. What plans does Mr. Chavez have for the Venezuelan constitution?
6. What is Chavez’s attitude toward the U.S.?
7. What type of relationship does Chavez have with the following governments: Iran, Cuba, Russia? Be specific.
For background information on Venezuela, go to the CIA World FactBook.
For a map of Venezuela, go to WorldAtlas.com.