Venezuela's Chávez riles critics with new decree
Chávez issued 26 laws last week, many of which resemble items in a constitutional reform package rejected by voters last December.
Caracas, Venezuela; and Mexico City
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Back then, Mr. Chávez claimed to have accepted the will of the people and seemed to back off his confrontational approach to pushing for a socialist state.
But now, his government is once again riling critics with recent moves, such as the passage of a slew of new laws that resemble items in the rejected constitutional reform package and the banning of opposition candidates from upcoming mayoral and gubernatorial elections.
If the new laws are perceived as a way to force reforms down the throats of voters who already rejected such proposals, however, it could embolden the opposition further and turn off moderate Chávez supporters ahead of regional elections in November.
"The intentions [of the laws] are exceedingly clear: centralization, expanding control over society," says Teodoro Petkoff, the editor of the opposition daily Tal Cual and a Chávez critic. "The constitutional reform generated doubts, criticisms, and reservations among those who had previously voted for the president, and contributed to [December's] defeat. Seeing as the laws reproduce aspects of the constitutional reform, it should generate the same apprehensions about the government's intentions."
26 new laws by decree
Chávez issued 26 laws last week, upon the expiration of an 18-month period in which he could make laws without the approval of the National Assembly.
They range from the renaming of the armed forces to the establishment of civilian militias to giving more power to regional authorities who are designated by the central government.
"The president has abused his legislative powers," says Gerardo Blyde, an opposition politician for the New Era Party and candidate for the mayor of Baruta municipality in Caracas. "Many of the 26 laws violate what the people denied him on Dec. 2."
Supporters of Chávez, however, heralded the new laws. "They were the only government that called us to participate in the creation of the Constitution; never before had a government given us that right," says electrician José Chiquito, standing at the "hot corner," a main plaza in downtown Caracas where Chávez supporters often meet to discuss politics and current affairs.
Sidelining opposition candidates?
The decree comes a week after Chávez announced intentions to nationalize the Bank of Venezuela, owned by Spain's Santander group. It also comes at the same time as last week's Supreme Court ruling to uphold a ban on 272 candidates in November's state and local elections.