The Americas

Venezuela parliament approves decree powers for Maduro

March 13, 2015: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro raises his fist from the passenger seat, as Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega controls the steering of his vehicle, during a march organized to show solidarity with the South American country, in Managua, Nicaragua. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

March 13, 2015: Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro raises his fist from the passenger seat, as Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega controls the steering of his vehicle, during a march organized to show solidarity with the South American country, in Managua, Nicaragua. (AP Photo/Esteban Felix)

The Venezuelan parliament on Sunday approved a law giving President Nicolas Maduro the power to legislate by decree for nine months in the face of what he described as threats by the U.S. government.

The so-called "anti-imperialist" law will be in effect from the time it is published in Venezuela's Official Gazette until Dec. 31.

Maduro requested the expanded powers in response to new U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations. Critics of Venezuela's government have called the move a power grab.

The U.S. is targeting officials in the top echelon of Venezuela's security apparatus responsible for cracking down on last year's anti-government protests and for pursuing charges against opponents. The officials will be denied U.S. visas and have their U.S. assets frozen.

The leaders of South America's leftist governments have come out in support of Venezuela, while Washington has denied Maduro's claim that it is seeking to undermine his government and urged him to focus on Venezuela's domestic problems, including food shortages and soaring inflation.