Following a week of suspense after Reuters first reported the story, Venezuelan ambassador to the United Nations Rafael Ramirez confirmed today that he has resigned from the position following a public break from the Maduro regime.
Reuters reported last week that Maduro had ordered Ramirez position, but Ramirez refuted the story soon after its publication and insisted that he was still UN ambassador.
Ramirez made the announcement today through his Twitter account, saying that his resignation was effective as of yesterday. Ramirez explained that Maduro removed him from the position “due to my opinions”, and that he would remain “loyal to Commander Chavez” despite his falling out with the regime.
Ramirez’s removal from the office follows a series of public spats involving him, Maduro, and other high-ranking PSUV officials. In recent weeks, Ramirez published two columns on a popular chavista website in which he criticized the Maduro regime for its mismanagement of the Venezuelan economy, and stated that he had warned Maduro early in his presidency to correct course but that Maduro had ignored his advice. Ramirez’s comments drew the ire of PSUV officials like Maduro and Iris Varela, who accused Ramirez of disloyalty.
In a four-page resignation letter, Ramirez makes clear that while he is resigning from the position, he is doing so out of necessity given the increased hostility with which Caracas views him for criticizing the Maduro regime.
Part of Ramirez’s resignation letter reads:
All of the observations that I have made across all of the positions that I have held I have made with honesty. I have accepted different positions and responsibilities in a permanent exercise of discipline. For this reason, I am committed to continue to insist to the government about the necessity for deep reflection and of taking up once again the successful path outlined for us by Commander Hugo Chavez to the benefit of our people and of our homeland.
As a result of these circumstances and of the limitations to which I have been subjected, I have been forced to express my opinions in public after first expressing them in the corresponding political arenas, always with the goal of contributing to a solution to our problems through the exchange of ideas and solutions. I had hoped that these would be well received, specially because they were made constructively, with the one goal of generating creative, revolutionary discussion in order to overcome this situation together.
Ramirez was arguably one of Chavez’s strongest allies throughout much of his presidency, and was the head of the state-owned PDVSA oil company from 2004 to 2014. As a clear contender for the presidency, Ramirez was removed from the powerful position atop the Venezuelan economy and sent to New York City in 2014, in a move that was seen by many as a clear indication that Maduro did not trust Ramirez to have continued contact with political circles in Caracas.
Samuel Moncada, a seasoned diplomat and close ally of PSUV insiders like Jorge and Delcy Rodriguez, has been appointed to replace Ramirez at the United Nations effective immediately.
Analysts See Purges as Sign of PSUV Turmoil
According to political analyst and journalist Sebastiana Barraez, the Ramirez/Maduro split is clear indication that the ruling PSUV party is in turmoil. According to Barraez, Maduro’s precarious position atop the pyramid of power inside the party comes with a heavy price: paranoia.
Barraez told Infobae:
… any doubtful glance, odd gesture or forced smile places the individual under suspicion. The closer that [the individual] is to the presidency, the more vulnerable he becomes, and the more careful he must be.
Barraez sees Ramirez’s effective dismissal from his position as evidence of power struggle unfolding in dramatic fashion behind the scenes. She explained:
Maduro got the presidency thanks to Chavez’s blessing despite the envy and annoyance of those who considered to be more worthy [of the position]. Maduro started to scheme with skill, untying links, eliminating adversaries, until it was Ramirez’s turn.
For economist Luis Olivares, Ramirez’s fall from grace is clearly retaliation for his daring to speak out against the economic mismanagement under Maduro.
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