In an effort to curb the scarcity crisis affecting the country, Maduro created the Minister of Urban Agriculture, a body that will oversee food-growing efforts in cities across the country. The ministry is headed by political newcomer Lorena Freitez, who hopes to help the Venezuelan government “create new productive roots” through new agricultural initiatives.
However, just four days into her post, Freitez has made a number of remarks that call into question her understanding of not only basic economic principles, but also of the reality affecting Venezuelans today. El Nacional has compiled a list of these remarks, which include the following:
We have to open the economy’s black box to see how our country’s economy works. I’m not an economist. You invited [me to this post]. I’m interested in these topics because I’m a Venezuelan who wants to understand what’s happening in this country when it comes to the economy.
On the issues of scarcity and the lack of production in the country, Freitez said:
Before, we had supermarkets that were full and refrigerators that were empty. Today, we have supermarkets that sell out of things really quickly, and the people’s refrigerators and pantries are full. Venezuelan people must be wondering why the predicted social explosion has not taken place.
… [Venezuela] has needed to import or use foreign currency to [import] raw materials (…) and this is very important. Instead of bringing in dead meat to the country, meat that is ready to be purchased, why not bring in the animal? Instead of bringing in products that are ready to be consumed, why not bring in the raw materials so that we can process them here?
Controversy Over Prison Video Forces Gov’t Reaction
This past Monday, Teofilo “El Conejo” Rodriguez, was murdered while attending a party at a club in Porlamar, Margarita state. Rodriguez had been released from the San Antonio prison in early 2015, where he had ruled as the prison’s pran – in effect, the “king” of the establishment. As the pran of the prison, Rodriguez would have controlled the flow of drugs, contraband and prostitutes into the prison.
Such was Rodriguez’s influence inside the prison that he was once photographed inside his cell hugging Minister of Penitentiaries Iris Varela:
Rodriguez’s death was mourned by inmates at the San Antonio prison. In the video below, which was taken inside the prison, prisoners fire an impressive arsenal of weapons into the air in mourning of the loss of their former leader:
Earlier today, Varela responded to Rodriguez’s death and the video below. Varela said that the San Antonio inmates had contacted her and requested that Rodriguez’s body be brought to the prison so that they may hold a ceremony to commemorate his life, a request Valera rejected out-of-hand:
I’ve also said that we’ve been making progress when it comes to implementing a penitentiary regime (…) I answered in the negative [to the inmate’s request]. They’re not his family members. His family members are the ones who should say goodbye to him…
Varela also told Union Radio that she had ordered a search of the prison in order to “remove all of the weapons there”. At the same time, Varela took the opportunity to criticize pre-Chavez governments for their handling of prisons:
[Authorities will go in to] remove all of the weapons there. That’s what we do, not like in the Fourth Republic [the pre-Chavez era] where they went in to prisons to massacre people. We want everything to go smoothly.
Varela also said that the San Antonio prison had been previously “pacified”, since it didn’t suffer from riots and the other types of unrest that other prisons are prone to.
Rodriguez: PSUV Didn’t Build Economy “Because People were Illiterate”
PSUV deputy Hector Rodriguez said in an interview on Sunday that the reason the PSUV had been unable to build a productive economy in the country was that Venezuelans were illiterate. Rodriguez made the comments during an interview on Globovision:
Rodriguez: … that’s an angle that needs to be looked at. Another issue that needs to be looked at has to do with the economic problems. Without a doubt, we’ve exhausted the oil rentier system. Now, a new stage for a productive economy must come. Many will ask, “Well, why didn’t you do this before?” — well, it’s because the people were illiterate. Today, all of the conditions exist for us to take on this new challenge…
While it’s not clear exactly what time period in Venezuelan history Rodriguez was referring to, it is likely that he meant the era following Hugo Chavez’s election in 1998.
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