Venezuelan President Maduro's decree powers expire amid a spree activating new measures


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CARACAS, Venezuela — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has enacted a slew of new laws as his emergency powers expire.

During a four-hour speech on national television, Maduro used decree powers Tuesday to activate 28 new measures, including a luxury tax, a vice tax and the establishment of new economic development zones.

The National Assembly granted Maduro the authority to pass laws without consulting lawmakers last year. The powers, which expired Wednesday, were supposed to allow him to go after the businesses the ruling socialist party accuses of sabotaging Latin America's biggest oil economy.

But things have only gotten worse for Venezuela's ravaged economy. The country continues to grapple with chronic shortages, suffers from the world's highest inflation, and is now seen by some as on the verge of default.

Decree powers were a favorite tool of Maduro's mentor, the late President Hugo Chavez, who used them to promulgate dozens of laws that dramatically boosted state control over the economy. Lawmakers granted Chavez the expanded authority four times, despite the outcry of opponents, who called the power to rule by decree a thinly-disguised power grab.

But unlike the charismatic Chavez, who had near-absolute command over his party, Maduro has confronted growing doubts about his leadership during his 1 ½ years in power. His approval ratings now stand at 30 percent.

On Tuesday, Maduro declared extra taxes on alcoholic beverages and cigarettes, decreed a 15 percent tax on luxury items like yachts and expensive cars, and said that a $4 billion loan from China would be added to the country's international reserves.

He also said he would adjust rules governing foreign investment to "allow us to attract the investment the country needs in the public and private sector for the development of our priority projects."

Maduro has leaned more heavily on his expanded powers this month ahead of their expiration. He enacted a flurry of decrees last week, targeting labor rights, social development and food security.

Associated Press writer Jorge Rueda contributed to this report.

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