CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's Supreme Court overruled the opposition-controlled congress on Thursday and granted broad decree powers to President Nicolas Maduro.
Congress last month had refused to approve Maduro's declaration of an economic emergency. In a decision made public Thursday night, the high court ruled that Maduro did not need congressional approval after all. It said the declaration of emergency is now in effect, granting Maduro greatly expanded authority over the economy for 60 days.
Critics of Venezuela's socialist administration immediately denounced the move as unconstitutional and tantamount to a coup.
The opposition took control of congress in January for the first time since the late President Hugo Chavez initiated Venezuela's socialist revolution 17 years ago. The court has not ruled against the executive branch in that time.
Maduro hailed the decision during a televised address, promising to start flexing his expanded powers immediately.
"Now that the emergency decree is in place, I'm going to put in place a set of measures in the coming days that I was already working on," he said.
In recent weeks, Maduro has proposed increasing tax revenue, raising the price of gasoline and ramping up Venezuela's already strict economic controls.
Among other things, the decree could allow him to decree how state funds are used, and take over private warehouses and distribution trucks.
Congress rejected the proposal on Jan. 22. Venezuela's flailing economy is suffering from chronic shortages and the world's highest inflation.