If at first you don't succeed

After his proposed constitutional reforms were rejected by voters, Chavez seems set to go ahead and enact them anyway by decree:

President Hugo Chávez is using his decree powers to enact a set of socialist-inspired measures that seem based on a package of constitutional changes that voters rejected last year. His actions open a new stage of confrontation between his government and the political opposition.

The government quietly revealed last week that the president had approved 26 new laws on Thursday, when the 18-month decree powers bestowed on him by Congress were set to expire, but officials withheld offering the full text of the new laws until this week.

Some of the laws significantly increase Mr. Chávez's power. For instance, one law allows him to name regional political leaders who would have separate budgets, which could help him offset possible victories by opposition candidates in state and municipal elections scheduled for November.

(In a further blow to the opposition, the Supreme Court upheld a measure on Tuesday that prohibits more than 250 people from running for office while the comptroller general investigates claims of corruption against them. The measure will prevent Leopoldo López, one of the country's most popular politicians, from running for mayor of Caracas.)

Mr. Chávez is also trying to assert greater control over the armed forces through a decree creating militias, a new military branch he has pushed for.

Reigniting private property concerns, another law allows his government to "occupy and temporarily operate" private companies not in compliance with bookkeeping rules.

The set of decrees stops short of removing term limits for Mr. Chávez, which was one of the most polarizing measures in the package voters rejected in December. But more than a dozen of the laws are strikingly similar to items included in the failed constitutional overhaul, angering the president's critics.

One might have asked why Chavez needs emergency decree powers during an oil boom when his country is at peace.  Just askin' . . .