CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuela's legislature on Tuesday gave President Nicolas Maduro emergency decree powers that he says are necessary for an "economic offensive" against the spiraling inflation and food shortages buffeting the country.
Maduro, who succeeded Hugo Chávez after he died of cancer in March, secured just enough votes for the measure to pass after a dissident lawmaker was recently stripped of her seat. Opponents warned that Maduro, who blames the economic crisis on private businessmen conniving with agents of the U.S. government, is leading Venezuela to ruin while trampling on individual liberties.
"We are going to consolidate this economic offensive," Maduro said shortly after the vote, explaining to viewers on national television that he accepted the new powers in the name of his mentor. "Mission completed, Comandante Hugo Chávez!"
The government has taken extreme measures to slow the country's 54 percent annual inflation rate, one of the world's highest, and end widespread shortages of toilet paper, milk, cooking oil and other basic goods. The local currency is also in a free fall.
Chávez used decree powers during his rule to push through radical economic and political changes in his efforts to remake Venezuela into a socialist country. With the ability to pass laws without congressional approval for up to a year, Maduro said that he would move fast to restrict profit margins and introduce other changes to the economy.