August 1, 2008 / 2:41 PM / 11 years ago

Venezuela's Chavez decrees reform to banking law

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez decreed a long-awaited reform to the nation’s banking law, without revealing details of its content, just hours after announcing he will nationalize a large Spanish-owned bank.

The reform was declared in the government’s Official Gazette on Friday, but details of the law were not included and a spokesman said its content would not be published for days.

Chavez on Thursday said he was nationalizing Banco de Venezuela, a unit of Spain’s Grupo Santander (SAN.MC).

The imminent banking reform was included in a package of 26 laws rushed through in the last hours before the end of a period of special presidential powers allowing the socialist leader to write legislation without Congressional approval.

The bank buyout is Chavez’s first major foray into the financial sector after a string of nationalizations of key parts of the OPEC-nation’s economy, including oil and telcoms companies.

A spokesman at the official gazette said the law was unlikely to be published before next week at the earliest.

Venezuelan lawmakers last year granted Chavez special powers to legislate via decree, a move opposition leaders slammed as an authoritarian change that would allow the leftist leader to concentrate power.

The special powers expired at the end of July.

Reporting by Deisy Buitrago, Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Leslie Adler

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