Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez asked parliament Tuesday to grant him sweeping legislative powers, for the fourth time since he took office in 1999. The request comes just weeks before a new national assembly with a much greater opposition presence is due to be inaugurated.
Opposition leaders slammed the move and said the government was using the current flood disaster, which has affected hundreds of thousands of people, as an excuse to concentrate yet more power in the presidency.
The so-called "enabling law''' is expected to pass -- perhaps as early as Thursday -- since the current assembly is dominated by pro-government lawmakers.
They voted to give it fast-track treatment, despite complaints by the opposition and some constitutional lawyers that the move was illegal.
Chávez has asked for the power to enact laws by decree for one year.
Assembly President Cilia Flores said the effort would allow Chávez to pass laws that would ensure that those who lost their homes in the country's recent floods and landslides ``do not return to risky areas but to decent houses.''
But Henrique Capriles, the opposition governor of Miranda state -- one of the worst-hit by the floods -- called the proposed law "a mockery for all our people, including those who voted [in parliamentary elections last September] for members of the government party.''
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