In a move that has outraged the opposition, Venezuela's Supreme Court overruled the newly elected Congress Thursday and greenlighted a proposal the majority of lawmakers had rejected last month.
The measure, a declaration of an economic emergency, grants broad decree powers to President Nicolas Maduro. Among other things, it allows him to decree how state funds are used and take over private warehouses and distribution trucks.
The high court ruled that Maduro did not need congressional approval. It said the declaration of emergency is now in effect, granting Maduro greatly expanded authority over the economy for 60 days.
Critics of Venezuela's socialist administration immediately denounced the move as unconstitutional and tantamount to a coup.
The opposition took control of congress in January for the first time since the late President Hugo Chavez initiated Venezuela's socialist revolution 17 years ago. The court has not ruled against the executive branch in that time.
Maduro hailed the decision during a televised address, promising to start flexing his expanded powers immediately.
"Now that the emergency decree is in place, I'm going to put in place a set of measures in the coming days that I was already working on," he said.
In recent weeks, Maduro has proposed increasing tax revenue, raising the price of gasoline and ramping up Venezuela's already strict economic controls.
Congress rejected the proposal on Jan. 22. Venezuela's flailing economy is suffering from chronic shortages and the world's highest inflation.
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.