After ordering fancy stores across the country to cut prices by more than half last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has now promised to put to an end the “economic war being waged against his administration”. In a dramatic move this week, the Venezuelan President was granted special powers which allow him to rule the country by decree. The legislation, known as the Ley Habilitante, or Enabling Act, would allow Mr. Maduro to bypass the country’s Congress for a year.
With inflation on the rise (54 per cent), the dollar rate going out of control and the biggest chains indulging in hoarding and over-pricing, the Venezuelan government has ordered a crackdown on private businesses and enterprises. The President has also accused his opponents of trying to destabilise his administration ahead of next month’s municipal elections.
In his first request for the special legislative powers in August, Mr. Maduro had said that he would use them to tackle corruption in Venezuela. Now, as the National Assembly has awarded him powers to rule by executive orders for a year, the President has vowed to end the “economic war” that, according to his supporters, is the real reason behind Venezuela’s growing economic crisis.
In a clear sign that relations between the government and the country’s private sector have reached a breaking point, Mr. Maduro plans to enforce price controls, change trade laws, control exports, establish a rationing system, control the financing of political parties, and install any other measures to fight those “foreign powers that want to destroy our nation through economy, politics and media”.
“What you have seen is little compared to what we will do to defend the people and their rights,” Mr. Maduro has warned. In his first speech after getting the special powers, the President said his first executive orders are aimed at “protecting the economic freedom and the socio-economic rights of the working people”. He also vowed more support for education, establishing 10,000 university scholarships and the promise of a tablet for every Venezuelan student.
Since he came to power in April, after the demise of Hugo Chavez, the President has been fighting a battle with the country’s business groups whom he has accused of backing the opposition and trying to destabilise his government with the support of United States.
The fluctuating price of dollar is one of the main sources of tension between the U.S. and Venezuela, which exports large quantities of oil to North America. Now, as the dollar rate in the black market plays havoc with the Venezuelan economy, the South American country wants Twitter to block users who post black market dollar rates. The country has had strict currency control since 2003. Unofficial exchange rates are 10 times the official rate, and undermine government efforts to curb 50 per cent inflation.
The Managing Director of Venezuelan National Telecommunication Commission (Conatel), Pedro Maldonado, sent an official letter to the Twitter headquarters in San Francisco asking to “block the accounts and/or users with web pages referring to illegal currency trade in Venezuela, distributing exchange rates different from the officially established”, says the commission site. Mr. Maldonado added that information distributed via Twitter brings “highly burdensome circumstance for the Venezuelan economy and is potentially harmful to the Internet service providers who do not block the above content”.
But as the government takes tough measures to put the economy back on track, critics alleged that Mr. Maduro has sought the decree powers to clamp down on the opposition ahead of elections in December. The President has been blasted by critic and opponents for attempting to increase his control over the economy amid a nationwide shortage of basic goods like toilet paper, milk and cooking oil. Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has condemned the new laws, calling them “corrupt.” “Venezuelans must defeat corruption in December’s [municipal] elections,” he said on Friday.