Venezuela congress grants Chavez decree powers

CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan lawmakers granted President Hugo Chavez broad powers Friday to enact laws by decree, undermining the clout of a new congress that takes office next month with a bigger opposition bloc.
Chavez opponents condemned the move as a power grab, saying the law will be a blank check for the leftist leader to rule without consulting lawmakers. The National Assembly approved the special powers for 18 months.A new congress goes into session Jan. 5 with an opposition contingent large enough to hinder approval of some types of major laws. Opposition lawmakers stated that the decree powers now give Chavez a blank check to rule autocratically while ignoring the congress.
The president's critics view the law as one of many controversial measures being pushed through in the final weeks of a lame-duck congress.
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