NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--While most Venezuelans were celebrating Christmas, President Hugo Chavez pushed a law through his lame-duck congress, giving himself decree powers for 18 months just before a new congress able to oppose him was seated.
Ismael Garcia, an opposition lawmaker in the National Assembly, denounced what he called "a package of laws that are a coup d'etat against the constitution," the Associated Press reported. U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Chavez "seems to be finding new and creative ways to justify autocratic powers. What he is doing here, we believe, is subverting the will of the Venezuelan people."
Fall elections gave 66 seats to opposition lawmakers in the 165-seat National Assembly, enough to impede Chavez dictatorship in some areas. Pro-Chavez lawmakers also appointed nine new Supreme Court justices, which will reinforce Chavez' dominance of Venezuela's judiciary, the AP reported.
Supporters cited the need to swiftly approve disaster relief measures as the rationale for decree powers, but critics noted the new law also allows decrees affecting telecommunications, banking, information technology, the military and land use.
Although Chavez insisted the new law had nothing to do with the incoming congress, he signed the new law Dec. 17 with the triumphant comment, "Let's see how they're going to make their laws now," the AP reported.
SOMALI GIRL SHOT FOR TURNING TO CHRIST -- A 17-year-old girl in Somalia who had placed her faith in Christ was shot to death in late November in an apparent "honor killing."
Nurta Mohamed Farah fled her village in Somalia's Gedo region to live with relatives in another part of the country after her parents tortured her for leaving Islam, Compass Direct News reported. She died Nov. 25 after two unidentified men shot her in the head and chest with a pistol.
After Farah's family found out May 10 that she had accepted Christ, she was shackled to a tree by day and put in a small dark room at night, Compass Direct said. Her parents also took her to a doctor who prescribed medication for a "mental illness." Farah had declined her family's offer of forgiveness in exchange for renouncing Christianity.
AYATOLLAH SENDS HANUKKAH GREETINGS TO JEWS -- A distinguished Iranian cleric who has been imprisoned in Tehran for his opposition to the country's ruling mullahs sent greetings to the world's Jews during Hanukkah.
Seyyed Hossein Kazemeyni Boroujerdi, who has been held in Tehran's notorious Evin prison since 2006, said, "We join in the celebration of all religious beliefs and traditions.... We come to this joint celebration through our common vision for freedom and peace," according to a report in The Weekly Standard news magazine.
The message was released by a group of Boroujerdi supporters who oppose "the current anti-Semitic regime of Iran," which it says sows animosity and hatred "between the descendants of Abraham, the common ancestor of Jews and Arabs, and the progenitor of monotheism," the Weekly Standard reported.
Boroujerdi's health has deteriorated in prison, yet he has continued to denounce the regime of Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Weekly Standard reported. Boroujerdi preaches a pre-revolution version of Shia Islam that believes religion should not control politics.
Mark Kelly is an assistant editor and senior writer for Baptist Press.
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