Chavez clears way for 'maximum revolution'

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The Independent US

A congress wholly loyal to President Hugo Chavez has approved a law granting the Venezuelan leader authority to enact sweeping measures by presidential decree. Meeting yesterday in a session that resembled a political rally, lawmakers approved all four articles of the law and proclaimed: "Fatherland, socialism or death! We will prevail!"

Mr Chavez, who is beginning a fresh six-year term, says the legislation will be the start of a new era of "maximum revolution" during which he will consolidate Venezuela's transformation into a socialist society. His critics call it a radical lurch toward authoritarianism. Mr Chavezsays he will use the law to nationalise Venezuela's largest telecommunications company and the electricity sector, slap new taxes on the rich and impose greater control over the oil and natural gas industries.