PSUV deputy Hector Rodriguez announced late this afternoon that government ministers who had been summoned to a hearing at the National Assembly in order to answer questions about the economic emergency decree would not attend the hearing so long as the media was present in the chamber.
Rodriguez explained the decision:
This opposition executive council just wants to put on a show for the media instead of implementing policy to overcome this crisis.
The ministers in question include Minister of Nutrition Rodolfo Marco Torres, Minister of Finance Rodolfo Medina, as well as Nelson Merentes, Eulogio del Pino and Jose David Cabello, the heads of the Venezuelan Central Bank, PDVSA, and the tax collection agency (SENIAT), respectively.
The National Assembly is currently debating the economic emergency decree. The legislature hoped to be able to speak to the ministers whose organizations would carry out and be most affected by the measures in order to come to a decision on whether to accept the decree or not.
Rumours of Back-Out Started Yesterday
La Patilla reported late last night that one of its sources inside the National Assembly had said that government ministers summoned to answer questions before the National Assembly regarding the economic emergency decree were considering not attending.
The website quoted opposition deputy Jose Guerra as saying that while the men were scheduled to appear at the National Assembly today at 10:00 AM to answer questions from deputies, “they changed the rules of the game unexpectedly” late yesterday and postponed the hearing to 5:00 PM. While Guerra did not specify what exactly he meant by his comment, he stressed:
This will be an open and public hearing with questions and answers so that Venezuela can know the country’s economic situation.
Guerra also said that attending the hearing is mandatory for the ministers, and pointed out that not once in the past 10 years of PSUV-controlled legislature did the National Assembly summon a minister to a hearing.
Allup: Economic Emergency Decree “More of the Same”
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup weighed in on the debate surrounding Maduro’s proposed economic emergency decree, calling it “more of the same” and calling into question the necessity of the measure. Allup said:
I’ve read the decree. It’s more of the same. There’s nothing in there that deserves to be in an emergency decree because it’s all been done through habilitante [decree] laws, and in some of the other decrees the government has been able to issue.
Venezuelan law allows for the National Assembly to give the President of the Republic habilitante powers; that is, the ability to rule by decree for a set limit of time. Maduro has had habilitante powers twice: once in 2014 and once in 2015.
Allup also questioned the timing of the decree, since it came just days after the Venezuelan opposition took control of the National Assembly in the past 17 years. For Allup, the timing of the decree gives away its true purpose:
[If we reject the decree] it will be the perfect excuse for the government to say, “I didn’t solve the crisis, the shortage, the inflation, etc., because the National Assembly did not approve the decree.
NA Set to Investigate Alleged Drug Trafficking-Gov’t Links
The National Assembly officially inaugurated a special commission yesterday which will investigate government malfeasance, including ongoing allegations of corruption and drug trafficking at the highest level of government.
We have to lift the lid on these pots and (…) expose the pool of corruption that the public treasury has become.
One of the issues the commission will examine is what exactly happened with money supposedly spent by the government for importing food and medicine.
Deputy Ismael Garcia, the commission’s vice president, said that there are approximately 12 cases that are emblematic of the corruption problem, including the money-laundering allegations surrounding PDVSA.
Another National Assembly commission, this one headed by deputy Luis Aquiles Moreno, has been tasked with investigating PDVSA’s finances. Moreno said:
[We must conduct] an audit of PDVSA [to] explain to Venezuelans how it administers resources, and why a great part of this crisis is due to the way that money that came in through the oil industry was administered.
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