Español“United we are all Chávez; divided we are nothing.”
That is what Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro said yesterday, as he spoke before the National Assembly in Caracas.
According to the Article 237 in the Venezuelan Constitution, the president must present an annual report and accounts for the previous year to the legislature. This contains the government’s performance on political, economical, social and administrative matters.
The leader stressed that 2013 was one of the hardest years in Venezuela’s history, due to Hugo Chávez’s death. However, he affirmed that the country now has a “revolutionary conscience.”
While remembering the deceased ruler and justifying historical social struggles in a four-hour speech, the “working class” President Maduro summarized the achievements of the revolution during last year. He also presented actions to be taken in the war on capitalism.
A Stand Against the “Economic War”
According to Venezuela’s Central Bank numbers, 2013 closed with inflation over 56.2 percent, way above the 14 to 16 percent estimated in the budget, and the highest since 1996. (Unofficial measures place it in excess of 300 percent.) Maduro claims the capitalist bourgeoisie is responsible for destabilizing the government and announced many economic measures to fight against the “economic war.”
The president announced the merger of the National Department of Costs and Prices (SUNDECOP) — the agency responsible for supervising price regulation — and the Institute for the Defense of People and Access to Goods and Services (INDEPABIS). Minister for Women Andreína Tarazón will preside over the new, consolidated Department of Prices and Just Costs.
Under the rule that grants him the ability to decree laws without Assembly approval, Maduro made official the Supporting Law of Profits, Costs and Fair Prices. This law limits all profits from economic activities to 30 percent, and creates the Agency for Cost Calculation and Fair Profits. Its president will be Karlin Granadillo.
In addition, the Ministry of Public Banking merges with Economy and Finance. Finance Minister Nelson Merentes is now president of Venezuela’s Central Bank — his second time at the helm of the institution, with a previous term from 2009 to April 2013.
More Foreign Currency Controls
According to Maduro, the bourgeoisie and the “corrupt bureaucracies” are to blame for the “economic war.” As his counter-attack, the commander-in-chief listed a series of measures aimed at tightening government control over foreign currency purchases.
José Kahn will now lead the Ministry of Commerce, and the president declared that the new National Center of Foreign Trade will have Alejandro Fleming as president. This agency will manage the administrative currency policies for imports. Creating this office is a response to foreign currency embezzlement, since “phantom” companies request currency purchase permits for importing, but they do not follow through once they receive the money. This office will also take on the duties of the Commission for Currency Administration (CADIVI).
In addition, the president reported on the approval of the National Exports Plan for the first trimester of 2014, as well as a General Foreign Currency Plan. He did not provide further details, however, on either initiative.
Maduro said that his government will enforce alternative mechanisms for purchasing foreign currency, such as the auction-based currency exchange system (SICAD). He claimed that Venezuela has enough resources to maintain an official US dollar rate of 6.30 Bsf. throughout the whole year.
However, he also announced that next week he will change the Law Against Exchange Crimes. The private sector will be able to offer foreign currency through these alternative mechanisms, as a complementary flow for internal supply.
Strategies for a “Safe Homeland”
The recent murder of former Miss Venezuela Mónica Spear flamed the debate over insecurity. According to Interior and Justice Minister Miguel Rodríguez Torres, the homicide rate for 2013 was 39 for every 100,000 citizens. However, the National Observatory on Violence claims that the number reaches 79 victims for every 100,000 people.
The president expressed the need for “reinforcing the security of our people, and the lives of our people should be respected.” He ordered Rodríguez Torres to “double” on the security.
Furthermore, he asked Communications and Information Minister Delcy Rodríguez to further investigate television stations’ programming, so they can build a peace culture.
“We will battle for the new values; I do not think anyone will be opposed to this, because in the end this is about our children and grandchildren,” the president said.
At the end of the marathon speech, National Assembly President Diosdado Cabello asked for the congressmen to remain seated so they could approve additional debt. This will go to pay the 10 percent raise in public sector paychecks that Maduro mandated a few days ago, following the same increase to the minimum wage.
Translated by Melisa Slep.