Archive for Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Hundreds protest more power for Chavez

January 24, 2007

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— Blowing whistles and waving flags, hundreds of Venezuelans protested Tuesday against a congressional measure that would grant President Hugo Chavez the power to pass laws by decree in areas from the economy to defense.

Some 400 to 500 protesters stood in a Caracas plaza and shouted in unison: "Faced with authoritarianism, more democracy!"

The protest came as lawmakers in the entirely pro-Chavez National Assembly announced they would postpone until next week a session to grant final approval of a so-called "enabling law" allowing Chavez to enact laws by decree during an 18-month period. Chavez is seeking special powers to quickly push through changes from nationalizing electrical companies to imposing new taxes on the rich.

Many protesters said the measure would give Chavez carte blanche to legislate in a list of vaguely specified areas without checks or balances.

"It gives him total power," said Greys Pulido, 40. "We don't want a dictatorship."

Chavez, who was re-elected by a wide margin last month, says he is committed to democracy and is overseeing changes that will give a greater voice in decision-making to poor Venezuelans.

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