HAVANA TIMES — Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced the removal of Planning Minister Jorge Giordani, who was the main driver of economic controls imposed a decade ago by the late President Hugo Chavez.
The president made the announcement Tuesday night on his radio program “In Contact with Maduro,” which also included other changes in his cabinet. Giordani will be replaced by the Minister of Higher Education, the geographer Ricardo Menendez.
Among the other changes Maduro said the minister of Transportion, Water and Air, Herbert Garcia, will be the new Minister of Food, and will be replaced at his previous post by Luis Graterol, until now the head of the state airline Comviasa.
Menendez will be replaced by Deputy Minister of Education, Yeison Guzman.
Maduro thanked Giordani for his work in the government and called him “a man dedicated with honestly to all tasks that the revolution (Bolivarian) entrusted of him.”
Giordani, an electrical engineer and leftwing ideologue, joined Chávez in his policies of foreign exchange and price controls imposed in early 2003, after the government was victorious over a general strike that had lasted for two months.
Many analysts believe that the controls are proving outdated after such a long duration, in addition to being identified as being a significant source of corruption.
Giordani himself admitted that in 2012 alone, 20 billion dollars was provided to fictitious companies, despite the currency exchange controls.
The sacking of Giordani, known as “The Monk”, came days after the Minister of Petroleum and Mining and president of state oil company PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez, suggested a number of changes including to expand oil sales to the United States, negotiating more debt with China and the possible unification of the three official changes in force (6,30, 10 and 50 Bolivars per dollar).
Menendez was the Minister of Science and Technology and Industries before moving to Higher Education.
Economist José Guerra, a former director of the Central Bank of Venezuela, said people should not have “illusions” of an opening with Menendez because “he is a mini Giordani”.
“(He’s) dogmatic like Giordani but without his training. It will be an obstacle to the economy,” he said.
After Maduro announced the cabinet changes an open letter from Giordani began circulating, which warns of a power “vacuum in the government.
“It is painful and alarming to see a presidency that does not convey leadership and that seems to affirm by repetition, but without proper consistency, the approach of Commander Chávez, and the granting of massive resources to all who request them without a fiscal program framed in a socialist planning that gives consistency to the applicants activities,” said Giordani.
Venezuela faces escalating inflation, with a rate in 2013 of 56 per cent and in the last 12 months of 60 percent.