During his weekly television show today, Maduro handed over control of the state-owned PDVSA oil company to the country’s military by making Major General Manuel Quevedo president of the entity as well as Minister of Oil and Mining. With the announcement, Maduro gives the National Bolivarian Armed Forces complete control over the oil industry, which brings in 96% of the country’s income.
Maduro said that the announcement was part of a “revolutionary transformation” of PDVSA, which he claims is necessary in order to tackle corruption in the company.
Quevedo was promoted to the rank of major general of the National Guard in July of this year. Major General Quevedo was previously in charge of the regime’s subsidized housing initiative, called Mision Vivienda. He was also the head of the National Guard in Caracas during 2014, and played a key role in the brutal repression of the protests that took part in the city in the early part of the year.
After announcing Major General Quevedo’s promotion, Maduro called on all PDVSA employees to trust in his vision for the industry. Maduro said:
I need your support to carry out a totally revolutionary and absolute transformation of our oil industry, and to rescue it so that we can put it to work for the development of the country’s great economic and social objectives.
Maduro also attempted to rally support for the appointment of a loyal army officer to what is arguably the most important position in the country, saying:
To whom does the oil industry belong? To a small group of people? To an elite? It belongs to the people.
One third of Maduro’s cabinet is made up of active or retired army officers. One of the central tenets of Bolivarianism is the union civico-military (civil-military union), a concept that calls for the erasing of the boundary between the civilian and military sphere.
Cabello Comes Out Swinging Ahead of Talks
The vice president of the ruling PSUV party, Diosado Cabello, deflated some of the opposition’s hopes for the dialogue set to start in the Dominican Republic next week during a televised interview this morning. Cabello took aim at one of the opposition’s demands from the PSUV–that the Consejo Nacional Electoral (CNE) be replaced before next year’s presidential election–by saying:
The presidential [election] is going to take place with the same Consejo Nacional Electoral. We have to be ready because the right wing is not going to give up, but we’ve responded to every one of their attacks and 2018 will allow us to secure power.
The CNE is made up of a majority pro-PSUV leadership that actively rigs elections in favour of the ruling party. This fact was displayed most grotesquely in the July 30 Constituent Assembly election, when the CNE invented the election’s results. The opposition has been clear that the CNE leadership must be replaced if there is to be an expectation that next year’s election will be free and fair.
During the same interview, Cabello admitted that the PSUV’s “weak point” is the economy, which has been effectively destroyed during Maduro’s tenure. Cabello also stressed his belief that every one of the Venezuelan economy’s problems is due to the PSUV’s enemies. On this topic, Cabello launched into a disjointed tirade, saying:
The attacks that have been carried out by the United States and its American and world allies against Venezuela are now done openly, and before they were clandestine. Now they’re done openly. They have no shame at all. They affect us, because when Venezuela goes to a market to find fresh money, it can’t find any because there is pressure from the Department of State and unfortunately our economy has historically revolved around the dollar. We haven’t been able to overcome this. There are cases where we’ve had the cash to pay a debt, but we haven’t been able to pay it because the banks don’t accept money coming from Venezuela under orders from the United States.
Cabello has long been suspected of being the leader of a powerful drug cartel in Venezuela, and has been personally sanctioned by the United States. In August, the United States placed financial sanctions on Venezuela, prohibiting any U.S. person from conducting business with the country. The sanctions were placed as a punitive measure against Maduro’s dictatorial regime.
Cabello also lashed out against the website dolartoday.com, which keeps track of black market currency rates. The website is indispensable for Venezuelans who want to purchase foreign currency, and has for years featured heavily in the PSUV’s list of enemies. During the interview, Cabello struggled to understand the basic premise of the website and fundamental market economics, saying:
[Dolartoday.com] puts up a number and that’s the number, and they don’t put even a single dollar in to make sure that their actions have influence on the number that they put up. It’s an irrational thing. But some people follow that. One could say, “Well, why are you using DolarToday, if DolarToday is a thing that doesn’t exist if you look at it?” No, they put up a number and that is it.
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