Venezuela Congress gives 1st approval to presidential decree powers to fight US 'imperialism'

Venezuela's Congress has approved President Nicolas Maduro's request for expanded powers, which he says he needs to protect the socialist South American country from U.S. "imperialism."

Maduro's request to enact laws for up to six months without consulting Congress was given initial approval by lawmakers Tuesday. It's expected to gain final approval Sunday.

Opponents say the law further erodes the rule of law in the deeply polarized nation.

Maduro requested the powers after Washington imposed sanctions Monday on a handful of top Venezuelan officials accused of human rights violations. He says he would use them to ensure Venezuela is never caught off guard by threats posed by the U.S. government.

He was first granted decree powers shortly after taking office in 2013. Those expired last year.