Miguel Rodriguez Torres was removed from his post as Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace today. The surprise move saw Admiral Carmen Melendez named to the post. Melendez had been the Minister of Defence since July of 2013.
During the same speech, Maduro named Strategic Operational Commander General Vladimir Padrino Lopez the country’s new Minister of Defence.
Maduro made the unexpected announcement today while speaking at a community event in Caracas. You can see a video of Maduro making the announcement along with my translation below:
I want to announce that I’ve designated Admiral-in-Chief Minister of the Interior, Justice and Peace. She will assume [the new post] today with her Admiral-in-Chief rank. Minister of Interior, Justice and Peace. And, I’m giving Commander-in-Chief Padrino Lopez the Minister of the Popular Power for Defence so that he can continue his work of constructing the new National Bolivarian Armed Forces. Congratulations to both of you. Truly, you’ve done an extraordinary job.
The Admiral-in-Chief is the first female Minister of Defence in the country’s history. And I think that she’s the first female Minister of the Interior in [Venezuelan] history. So, you’re making history, comrade! [She’s from] Barinas, our Commander’s sacred land. And, another llanero [roughly, “cowboy”] from Guarico, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, Minister of the Popular Power for Defence.
I want to thank our partner Miguel Rodriguez Torres for all his efforts and all of his work these past 19 months. I’ve told him to take 15 days of rest – he hasn’t rested in 15 years – 15 days of rest so that he can go on a new strategic mission which I’m going to give him. A new mission for our partner Rodriguez Torres.
While Maduro did not give a reason for the shuffle, Rodriguez Torres had been under increasing pressure from the country’s colectivos to resign, after security forces raided the headquarters of one of the groups in Caracas, resulting in five deaths. One of those killed was Jose Odreman, who was the leader of the Frente 5 Marzo colectivo.
Padrino Lopez Supports Politicized Army
The appointment of Vladimir Padrino Lopez as the country’s new Minister of Defence could result in the further politicization of the Venezuelan armed forces.
Back in July of this year, Padrino Lopez gave a television interview in which he gave his opinion regarding the Constitution’s separation of politics and the military. To Padrino Lopez, that separation is not as clear cut as it appears:
When it [the Constitution] says ‘apolitical’, it’s taking away all of its [the army’s] ability to reason. When it says that it [can’t make political decisions], it’s taking away its capacity to discern, to take decisions.
When Chavez came in 1999, he found a country that was de-politicized. He used to say that one of the biggest things that was happening in the country was that true politics was coming back.
In the interview, Padrino Lopez was referring to article 328 of the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, which reads:
Article 328: The National Armed Forces constitute an essentially professional institution, with no political orientation, organized by the State to guarantee the independence and sovereignty of the Nation and ensure the integrity of its geographical space, through military defense, cooperation for the purpose of maintaining internal order and active participation in national development, in accordance with this Constitution and the law.
Maduro Orders Review of Relations with Spain
During the same speech in which he announced the cabinet shuffle, Maduro said that he was ordering a review of the country’s relation with Spain.
Maduro made the announcement in response to recent comments by Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy. Rajoy met with Lilian Tintori – Leopoldo Lopez’s wife – and said that he, along with the European Union, were concerned about the political crisis in the country.
The meeting and subsequent comments outraged Maduro, who said:
I’ve ordered [Foreign Affairs Minister] Rafael Ramirez to review all of our relations with Spain thanks to this unfriendly act of interference and support for groups from the ultra-right wing who create violence in Venezuela.
There we have president [sic] Rajoy de abusador [“insulting” or “attacking” Venezuela] by getting involved in Venezuela’s internal affairs when he simply does not have the moral [authority] to speak about Bolivarian Venezuela. You must respect Venezuela, Mr. Rajoy. Go talk about the disaster you’re creating in Spain against the Spanish people. Don’t mess with my homeland, Rajoy. Respect Venezuela.
You come and give support to terrorist [groups] against Venezuela from Spain, when you’ve taken away the homes of more than 700,000 Spanish [people].
Venezuelan Crude Prices Continue to Drop
In what has become routine news over the past several weeks, the price of the Venezuelan crude oil basket fell again this week, and currently finds itself at $75.90. The price represents a $1.75 decline from last week.
I don’t have much to say.
I’d just like to point out how ridiculously silly it is for Maduro to take offence to Rajoy’s comments to the point of ordering a review of foreign relations, and then immediately accuse Rajoy of creating a “disaster’ in Spain and of making 700,000 of his own citizens homeless. Accuse someone of doing something wrong, and then immediately do that same thing. We’ve seen Maduro do this many times before.
It’d be funny if the consequences weren’t so disastrous for so many people.