President Hugo Chavez was granted free rein to accelerate changes in broad areas of society by presidential decree - a move critics said propels Venezuela toward dictatorship. Convening in a downtown plaza in a session that resembled a political rally, lawmakers on Wednesday unanimously gave Chavez sweeping powers to legislate by decree and impose his radical vision of a more egalitarian socialist state. "Long live the sovereign people! Long live President Hugo Chavez! Long live socialism!" said National Assembly President Cilia Flores as she proclaimed the "enabling law" approved by a show of hands. "Fatherland, socialism or death! We will prevail!" The law gives Chavez, who is beginning a fresh six-year term, more power than he has ever had in eight years as president, and he plans to use it during the next 18 months to transform broad areas of public life, from the economy and the oil industry in particular, to "social matters" and the very structure of the state.