Venezuela takes away funds from opposition mayor
By FABIOLA SANCHEZ – 1 day ago
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — Venezuela's National Assembly has approved a law that gives control over the budget of an opposition-run city to an official appointed by President Hugo Chavez.
Under the law passed by the predominantly pro-Chavez assembly late Tuesday, nearly all of Caracas Mayor Antonio Ledezma's budget and services will be transferred to a new federal authority in Venezuela's capital.
The new law will go into effect following its approval by the president, the assembly said in a statement.
Ledezma criticized the move Wednesday, calling it unconstitutional and accusing Venezuela's judicial and legislative powers of following orders from Chavez.
"We can't speak of democracy" in Venezuela, he said.
Caracciolo Betancourt, director of planning at the Caracas mayor's office, told The Associated Press that under the new law, the office will obtain just 10 percent of its usual income, which comes from other municipalities rather than the federal government.
Ledezma said he's willing to assume "all the necessary risks" to defend the constitution, and said he would ask Venezuela's National Electoral Council to speak out against the measure.
Since Ledezma was elected last November and took the place of a pro-Chavez mayor, the National Assembly has taken away city hall and eliminated most of his responsibilities in providing city services. Chavez earlier this month named Jacqueline Faria, a vice president of his ruling party, as the new top authority of Venezuela's capital.
Critics say Chavez is limiting the power of his opponents, as his allies in the assembly push through laws shifting power away from governors and mayors while prosecutors bring criminal charges against anti-Chavez leaders. Corruption allegations prompted opposition leader Manuel Rosales to obtain political asylum in Peru earlier this month.
A draft bill pending in the National Assembly would also subordinate state governors to regional "vice presidents" appointed by Chavez. The law is expected to be approved in the coming weeks.
Pro-Chavez lawmakers have defended the measure as necessary to improve coordination between the government and the states.