Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro
Venezuela Congress bestows Nicolas Maduro with sweeping powers to combat 'economic war' - (Reuters) Reuters

The National Assembly in Venezuela has given President Nicolas Maduro year-long decree powers in order to set the economy straight.

The socialist president, who had argued that such sweeping powers are necessary to battle the "economic war", thanked the pro-government majority in the assembly following the vote to approve the decree, known as the "Enabling Act".

Maduro, the protégé of late Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, said: "I want to thank the majority of patriotic and socialist lawmakers for approving this law that will let us advance, over the next 12 months, in defeating the economic war being waged against our people."

The controversial decree will grant Maduro freedom to govern the country, without any consultation with Congress for the next 12 months.

The Latin American country is currently undergoing economic turmoil amid runaway inflation of 54%, worsened by a severe shortage of basic goods.

Scores of supporters of Maduro's Socialist Party have hailed the decision by cheering outside the assembly.

Diosdado Cabello, the head of the National Assembly and an ardent supporter of Maduro, said: "With this Enabling Law we are following an order by president Chavez. He told us to pass all the laws necessary to wring the necks of the speculators and the money launderers."

The outcome of the vote was not a surprise as Maduro had already gained strong support during the preliminary debate.

Maduro's recent order, using his existing powers to slash retail store prices by up to 60% has already raised many eyebrows and is seen as an indication of what Venezuelans can expect in the near future.

Critics of Maduro have expressed concern at the extent of the powers as they fear that the opposition could be targeted.

"Why don't you punish people who have not complied with the (existing) laws? You want the Enabling Law to concentrate power. The reality is that the origin of this economic crisis is named Nicolas Maduro," said opposition leader Julio Borges.