Venezuela leader says to decree two economic laws on Thursday

CARACAS Wed Nov 20, 2013 8:48pm EST

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters after receiving a law which grants him with decree powers in Caracas, November 19, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro greets supporters after receiving a law which grants him with decree powers in Caracas, November 19, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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CARACAS (Reuters) - President Nicolas Maduro said he would use newly granted powers to decree two laws on Thursday to cap retailers' profits and reorganize the distribution of foreign currency in Venezuela's troubled economy.

Parliament passed an Enabling Law this week allowing Maduro to emulate his predecessor, the late socialist leader Hugo Chavez, and rule by decree for one year.

"The oligarchy has reacted with desperation, I call for our offensive to continue without falling for bourgeois provocations," the president said in a series of Tweets on Wednesday, referring to opposition outrage at the measure.

Maduro said he would use the special powers to pass one law intended to limit businesses' profits to 15-30 percent, and another creating a central body to oversee allocations of dollars at the official rate of 6.3 bolivars.

Earlier this month, Maduro declared an "economic offensive" against local business executives whom he accuses of inflating prices of imported products exorbitantly - some more than 1,000 percent - despite being given U.S. dollars at the official exchange rate.

OPEC member Venezuela's annual inflation has hit 54 percent, and shortages of basic products are rife, making the economy the No. 1 issue going into nationwide local elections on December 8.

Maduro's critics say 15 years of socialist economic controls and cowing of the private sector have left Venezuela in a mess. Some business people complain they were forced to hike prices because they had to buy dollars on the black market at up to nine times the official rate.

Opposition leader Henrique Capriles has called for a day of protests across the nation on Saturday "against the crisis and corruption of the government."

Adding to opposition criticism that Maduro is behaving autocratically, the United States chided Maduro's government over his new decree powers. Chavez used the measure four times during his 14-year rule of the South American nation.

"As you may know, it's constitutionally allowed in Venezuela, but that doesn't make it okay, because we feel, of course, it's essentially important for the people to have a voice in any country, in any decision-making process," a State Department spokeswoman said.

"And that's why the separation of powers is so important."

(Reporting by Andrew Cawthorne and Diego Ore in Caracas and Lesley Wroughton in Washington; Writing by Andrew Cawthorne; Editing by Ken Wills)

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