As I have asserted, every move Hugo Chávez makes consolidates power around himself. The latest is his bid to rule by decree following disastrous floods:
Chavez seeks power to rule by decree for 1 year
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez on Tuesday asked congress to grant him special powers to enact laws by decree for one year, just before a new legislature takes office with a larger contingent of opposition lawmakers.
The measure would give the president the ability to bypass the National Assembly for the fourth time since he was first elected almost 12 years ago.
This of course nullify the result of the last Congressional elections held in September, where his party lost its super-majority. The opposition won more than a third of the seats and about half of the popular vote, and the new Assembly members will be inaugurated next January 5th.
Today the National Assembly, where Chávez still has super-majority, is reviewing an Enabling Law (link in Spanish via VN&V), along with two laws affecting the news media: the law for Responsibility on Radio, Television and Electronic Media, and an amendment to Telecommunications Law.
US State Department spokesman P. J. Crowley stated Chávez aims to subvert the democratic process. Chávez replied with his usual rhetoric about the evil empire, i.e., the US, which you can listen to here (in Spanish, and I won’t bother translate),
The law will be voted on tomorrow.
At the same time this is happening, Caracas Chronicles lists what Chávez is after,
Last week, Chávez asked the all-Chavista National Assembly to give him the power, for 18 months, to dictate the following types of laws by decree:
1. Laws to accomplish the transformation of the institutions of the State.
2. Laws to establish mechanisms of popular participation.
3. Laws to establish the essential values that will guide public service.
4. Laws dealing with social and economic issues.
5. Laws dealing with financial and tax-related issues, including the Central Bank Law.
6. Laws dealing with the personal and judicial security of Venezuelans.
7. Laws dealing with science and technology issues.
8. Laws dealing with the way the country’s territory is organized.
9. Laws dealing with the security and defense of the nation and the State.
10. Laws dealing with infrastructure, transportation and services.
The means through which this can be achieved legally has to do with five Leyes orgánicas, that is, laws that are granted “organic” status. A ley orgánica has legal precedence right below the country’s Constitution and can not be modified by a simple majority.
Chávez wants five organic laws passed: a commune law, a social ombudsman law, participation law, a planning law and a communal economy law. The aggregate effect of the five would generate a new power structure that would take away control from the municipalities and states, and consolidate it around Chávez.
The Economist’s Intelligence Unit calls the measure “a new geography of power.”
In plain words, a dictatorship.
In case you’re wondering about legal challenges, Chavez ensured that a new Supreme Court was handpicked and sworn in before the lame duck National Assembly granted him the special powers.
Cross-posted in The Green Room.