CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) – Venezuela's congress has voted in favor of granting President Nicolás Maduro the emergency decree powers he's seeking to help fight corruption and stabilize the inflation-plagued economy.
The pro-government majority on Thursday approved the request in the first of two required debates. The second will be held next week.
Opposition lawmakers allege that Maduro is trampling on Venezuela's democracy after congress this week stripped a lawmaker of her immunity from prosecution on corruption charges. With the lawmaker's removal and substitution with a government supporter, Maduro was able to garner the crucial 99th vote he needed to win passage of the bill.
Maduro has said he will use the extra powers to intensify actions against opponents and businesses he accuses of waging an "economic war" to destabilize the South American nation.
On Tuesday Venezuela's National Assembly stripped an opposition lawmaker of her immunity from prosecution in a case of alleged corruption, clearing the way for the legislature to grant the president the decree powers.
Maduro has said he will use the extra authority to intensify actions against opponents and businesses that he says are waging "economic war" trying to destabilize the South American country.
As a result of the assembly's vote, which was widely expected, lawmaker Maria Aranguren will have to step down while she faces prosecution on what she says are trumped up embezzlement charges.
Aranguren, who broke with the late President Hugo Chávez's government in 2012, will be replaced by a lawmaker more in line with the government's wishes, likely giving the president the crucial 99th vote he needs to ensure passage of the decree powers.
Maduro last week deployed troops to take over several appliance stores nationwide and slash prices that have soared in recent weeks as inflation heated up to an annual rate of 54 percent. At a pro-government rally Tuesday he vowed to extend price caps to motorcycles and car parts.
The president also said he would soon present evidence showing that the U.S. Embassy in Caracas is plotting to disrupt his rule.
Maduro in September expelled the top U.S. diplomat in Caracas and two other U.S. Embassy officials for allegedly conspiring with conservative opposition groups. The U.S. rejected the allegations.