Venezuela acuses US of interference in its affairs

Venezuela accused the United States of "interference" in its internal affairs Thursday after Washington expressed concern that President Nicolas Maduro had been granted powers to rule by decree.

In a statement, the Foreign Ministry declared its "most profound, categorical and energetic rejection" of Wednesday's comments by State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

"These statements are a new demonstration of the interference by the authorities of the United States in the internal affairs of our country and constitute an act that shows how the Venezuelan opposition executes, shamelessly, the agenda set down by the State Department to destabilize our homeland," it said.

The National Assembly on Tuesday passed enabling legislation that gives Maduro broad powers to wage an "economic war," combat corruption and promote "economic order in transition to socialism."

The foreign ministry said the Venezuelan constitution allows for the president to be granted special powers to pass laws by decree.

Acknowledging as much on Wednesday, Psaki said "that doesn't make it okay."

"We feel... it's essentially important for the people to have a voice in any country, in any decision-making process," she told reporters.

"And that's why the separation of powers is so important."

This would be the fifth time in 14 years since Maduro's predecessor Hugo Chavez came to power that the president has been given decree powers.

They have been used at one time or another by every Venezuelan president in the past 40 years.

Venezuela has long had adversarial relations with the United States even though it remains the biggest market for Venezuelan oil exports.

The two countries have not had ambassadors since 2010, and in September Maduro expelled the US charge d'affaires and two other diplomats, accusing them of supporting opposition attempts to destabilize the country.