In a televised speech last night, Maduro gave Minister of Defense Vladimir Padrino Lopez unprecedented power by naming him the head of of a new initiative and giving him control over “every institution” of the Venezuelan government.
The move comes with the creation of the Gran Mision de Abastecimiento Soberano [Great Sovereign Supply Mission], a new initiative aimed at ensuring that food, medicine and other basic necessities make it onto store shelves. Maduro described the Mission in the following way:
This is the first civil-military Great Mission created by the Bolivarian Revolution. This Great Mission that I’m activating today comes after the evaluation over these past five months of the Bolivarian economic agenda. It comes after proposals from the National Economic Council, and has come about after the beautiful process of coming about – it’s worth the redundancy – of the Local Supply and Production Committees, the CLAP.
Part of the initiative involves placing the entirety of the Venezuelan state under the command of the Ministry of Defense under Vladimir Padrino Lopez, essentially turning the minister into the most powerful man in Venezuela.
The point of the Mission is, according to Maduro:
Why “Sovereign Supply”? Because only Venezuelan effort – ours – will solve the country’s economic problems and those of the Venezuelan family. Not from begging around the world, as the extreme right wing says. This Great Mission will look to structurally solve the problem of the criminal economy, of the chaotic neoliberal economy that economic agents have imposed on the country.
More specifically, Maduro said that the Great Mission will solve these eight problems:
- Increasing prices
- Contraband and bachaquerismo (when people sell regulated products on the street for huge profits)
- Low production yields/ low levels of productive infrastructure
- The distribution system that is “being pulverized by the economic war”
- The culture of consumerism
- Failures in the system of infrastructure maintenance
- Failures in communication between the country’s different economic sectors.
Below, a video of Maduro’s announcement, followed by my translation:
Maduro: … and organizational. The only way to do this is under a single command. A single command, gentlemen. Every ministry, every minister, every institution of the state are now under the absolute command and subordinate to the National Command of the Gran Mision Abastecimiento, which is under the command of the President of the Republic and under the command of the Commander-in-Chief, Vladimir Padrino Lopez, starting right now. Every minister. This is a great operation.
The announcement means that every facet of food, medicine, and other basic necessity distribution is now under the direct control of the military.
The Gran Mision Abastecimiento also grants Maduro the power to rule by decree until the end of the year, meaning that he is unrestricted in any action he wishes to take by the National Assembly.
Army Moves In to Inspect Customs Stations Throughout Country
Following Maduro’s announcement last night, the National Bolivarian Armed Forces mobilized to customs stations throughout the country in order to begin the process of inspecting arriving imports.
Speaking to reporters during an inspection of shipping containers in the La Guaira Port earlier today, the army commander in charge of the operation – Jose Ornellas Ferreira – said that the initiative did not mean that the country was being “militarized“. Instead, Ferreira suggested that the operation was taking place as part of the “union civico-militar” [civil-military union], a cornerstone of the Maduro government that seeks to integrate the military into the social sphere.
Ferreira outlined the role of the military in this stage of the Gran Mision Abastecimiento, saying:
The key words of this plan are accompaniment, assistance and verification. At no moment is this a militarization (…) we are verifying the distribution of food and other supplies so that they can reach citizens.
In Zulia state, the military oversaw the arrival of over 30,000 tonnes of supplies today at the Maracaibo Port.
Padrino Lopez Gives Press Conference, Downplays Announcement
Speaking at a press conference given at around noon, Padrino Lopez stressed in comments to the media today that the military was not taking control of the country, but rather lending support to civilian staff with customs and logistics operations.
Padrino Lopez suggested that part of the reason why the entirety of the Venezuelan state had been put under his command was in order to do away with stifling bureaucracy:
We are tired of all the diagnostics. There’s a lack of articulation between the intervening entities (…) this is a matter of discipline, not a matter of militarization.
He also said:
I don’t like military intervention in matters that are not military in nature, but this is a matter of security and homeland defense, and that’s why the army is now involved.
Padrino Lopez Reaches Apex of Power
Last night’s announcement is all the more significant considering events earlier this year. Back in February, Maduro announced the creation of an organization called CAMIMPEG, a body which oversees the operations of the country’s oil and mining industries. In essence, all resource-extraction operations in the country – including those conducted by PDVSA – are under the control of CAMIMPEG, which is itself headed by Vladimir Padrino Lopez.
Last month, the government announced the appointment of CAMIMPEG”s board of directors, with the positions filled by individuals hand-picked by Padrino Lopez. Each of CAMIMPEG’s 11 board of director seats is filled by a member of the armed forces.
Capriles: Padrino Lopez’s Appointment “A Big Joke”
Miranda state governor Henrique Capriles reacted to last night’s announcement over the Gran Mision through his Twitter today, calling Padrino Lopez’s appointment as the head of the initiative that is supposed to tackle the country’s economic crisis “a big joke”.
Capriles also pointed out the fact that having the military in charge of the economy is not an intuitive arrangement, saying:
What does Padrino know about the economy, production, creating jobs, and inflation? Nothing! One need only look at the crisis inside the National Bolivarian Armed Forces themselves!
Finally, Capriles suggested that Maduro’s announcement is part of a plan to “sink” the armed forces along with him, although he did not explain why Maduro would seek to do this.
Citibank Set to Close Gov’t Accounts
Citibank announced today that it would close the Venezuelan government’s foreign currency accounts, citing the economic disintegration of the country. The announcement comes after the global financial organization conducted a risk assessment of its dealings with Venezuela, and decided to cut off ties with the country.
The Venezuelan government used its Citibank account “to make payments to other accounts in the United States and elsewhere in the world”, reports Yahoo! News. Without the account, Venezuelan will undoubtedly find it more difficult from a logistical standpoint to pay foreign debtors and suppliers.
Maduro – who announced the bank’s decision last night before Citibank confirmed it – reacted to the news by saying:
Do you think they are going to stop us by putting in place a financial blockade? No, ladies and gentlemen, nobody stops Venezuela! With Citibank or without it, we are moving forward.
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