In a televised speech last night, Maduro announced the creation of the Corporacion Nacional Productiva [National Productive Corporation], and placed cabinet members Manuel Fernandez and Juan Arias at its head. Maduro called on the two men to dedicate to the corporation “full time”, and that he had confidence that they would do well.
Manuel Fernandez is currently the president of CANTV, the state-owned telecommunications company, while Juan Arias is the president of the Corporacion de Industrias Intermedias de Venezuela [Medium Industries of Venezuela Corporation]. They will both report to the Vice-President of the Economic Area, Miguel Perez Abad.
Maduro explained the purpose of the corporation:
… to articulate the productive processes that are at the hands of the working class.
In other words, the corporation’s goal would be to clearly identify the best, most efficient way for the Venezuelan economy to function. Maduro said that in so doing, the corporation would achieve:
- Increased national productivity
- Substitute imports with made-in-Venezuela products.
- Increased production efficiency
VP, Ministers Speak at National Assembly
Vice-President Aristobulo Isturiz gave his yearly address at the National Assembly today, saying that despite setbacks, “the achievements of the national executive continue to be evident”. Isturiz also praised the Maduro administration for having “fighting the harms caused by the interests of big capital” and the right-wing during 2015.
As the three biggest challenges that Venezuela faced in 2015, Isturiz identified the border tension with Guayana, the closure of the border with Colombia and the fall in oil prices, and said that they each represented different facets of “North American aggression” against Venezuela:
It wasn’t a coincidence that these situations happened. They each form part of a conspiracy on behalf of the United States, and it’s not the first time that they’ve [done something like this].
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup spoke after Isturiz’s speech. Among other points, Allup criticized Isturiz and the national government for continuing to blame all of the country’s problems on an international conspiracy:
The universal conspiracy thesis is no longer politically viable (…) I think that in order to overcome the serious problems that are facing the problem – production, scarcity, security, contraband, speculation – we must begin without delay, without excuses, and with efficiency to solve these problems for which the government is to blame.
Petare Residents Clash with National Guard
Residents from the northern sectors of Petare, Caracas blocked roads and clashed with National Guard troops to protest lack of water service to their homes. Protesters blocked the Francisco Fajardo highway, which borders Petare to the west, until around 7:00 PM local time.
As the protest dragged on into the later afternoon, National Guard soldiers began firing tear gas canisters at protesters in La Alcabala sector of the neighbourhood.
The small-scale clashes lasted into the night. Below, a video showing protesters exchanging rocks with National Guard soldiers:
Minister: Exchange System Overhaul Not Read Yet
Minister of Exterior Commerce and International Investment Jesus Faria said in an interview with Globovision yesterday that the overhaul of the country’s currency exchange system Maduro announced last week has yet to be designed.
During a marathon speech that lasted nearly five hours last week, Maduro announced that the country’s three-tiered currency exchange system would be collapsed into two tiers. While he did not provide a specific date for the new system’s launch, the specifics Maduro provided created the impression that the system was completed, or nearly completed.
There’s a team working on a model that will make the currency exchange system work. It will allow the SIMADI [one of the three exchange tiers] rate to float, and that will allow access to foreign currency.
We’re working on this mechanism in a way that will make the exchange rate a factor that will promote investment and production with two goals: substituting imports and giving the currency exchange market the ability to compete, [and making] imports less expensive so that they can compete.
On the wider crisis affecting the country’s economy, Faria said that the Venezuelan government would “under no circumstance” ask the International Monetary Fund for help, and that he believes that the organization will always “protect the big corporations and not the workers”.
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