Venezuela assembly strips lawmaker of immunity, paving way for Maduro to win decree powers

CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela’s National Assembly on Tuesday stripped an opposition lawmaker of her immunity from prosecution in a case of alleged corruption, clearing the way for the legislature to grant the president special power to enact laws by decree.

President Nicolas Maduro has said he will use the extra authority to intensify actions against opponents and businesses that he says are waging “economic war” trying to destabilize the South American country.

As a result of the assembly’s vote, which was widely expected, lawmaker Maria Aranguren will have to step down while she faces prosecution on what she says are trumped up embezzlement charges.

Aranguren, who broke with the late President Hugo Chavez’s government in 2012, will be replaced by a lawmaker more in line with the government’s wishes, likely giving the president the crucial 99th vote he needs to ensure passage of the decree powers.

Maduro last week deployed troops to take over several appliance stores nationwide and slash prices that have soared in recent weeks as inflation heated up to an annual rate of 54 per cent. At a pro-government rally Tuesday he vowed to extend price caps to motorcycles and car parts.

The president also said he would soon present evidence showing that the U.S. Embassy in Caracas is plotting to disrupt his rule.

Maduro in September expelled the top U.S. diplomat in Caracas and two other U.S. Embassy officials for allegedly conspiring with conservative opposition groups. The U.S. rejected the allegations.