Empowering President Hugo Chavez with sweeping powers to enforce economic, social, and political change via, Venezuelan lawmakers called such measures a “historic necessity” to initiate an “unstoppable” process. Armed with a 18 month rule-by-decree mandate from a unanimous vote where opposition boycotted the voting, Chavez is now free to nationalize key sectors of the economy including telecom, mining, and fossil fuel processing, rewrite the Constitution to eliminate presidential term limits, strip Central Bank of its autonomy, and end foreign ownership of lucrative oil refineries.
Cognizant of a resurgent socialist pattern in Latin America, Chavez urged South American leaders meeting in Brazil to abandon free market policies and privatization of state industries. These are the foundation of the main trade block MERCOUSUR. Arguing that it was “absolutely necessary” for the nations need to reformulate MERCOUSUR, Chavez said that the “real integration of South America” will come only if the group “created space” for the disenfranchised.
Venezuela is the fifth largest oil producer in the world and the fourth largest supplier to the US—which is its top customer.