The Chavez Cabinet sounds like a game of musical chairs. Here is what is being rumored, announced and suspected:
-The Minister of Health will be replaced by General Baduell’s sister.
-The Minister of Finance Tobias Nobrega will be replaced by the Treasurer Captain Carmen Maniglia, who happens to be the wife of the General who is the Commander of the Army. Nobrega will reportedly become President of the Central bank in January.
Technically, Nobrega is way better than Maniglia. Reportedly the move was pressed by Minister of Planning Giordani who is no an economist but has his very own economic ideas. Giordani is honest and well meaning but he was in charge of economic policy and it was a disaster as his policies were inconsistent. He also promoted his lifelong dream of the Orinoco-Apure river axis, in which US$ 500 million was spent, but nothing came of it.
Nobrega on the other hand, had the technical knowledge to fix short term problems, but never seem to address the many distortions in the economy. Moreover, many transactions were leaked ahead of them or questioned and many profited which led many to question the ethics of his office.
-Ali Rodriguez will become the new Foreign Minister. Anything is an improvement over the current one.
-Minister of Energy of Mines Ramirez will reportedly become both President of PDVSA and hold his current job. I don’t think anyone is competent enough to hold both jobs at the same time, least of all Ramirez. I think PDVSA should be run as a for profit corporation in order to run it efficiently and provide the highest return for the country. That job alone is a tall enough task for anyone. The Ministry should devote itself to set country wide policy and establish guidelines for PDVSA, no more, no less.
As Minister, Ramirez has shown to be too politically involved and doe not appear to have the technical know how needed. His explanations of the reasons for the cutbacks in Orimulsion, increased royalties for heavy oil projects and oil production demonstrate that he does not know enough about oil in my own personal opinion.
-Reportedly Minister of education Aristobulo Isturiz will also be replaced. He had been a fixture in the Cabinet ever since he lost the union elections as a candidate for Chavez’ MVR, only six months after publicly stating that Chávez appeared to have smoked an egg roll with his actions and speeches.
Personally, I would have named former Minister of Finance Rojas, who is in the Finance Department of PDVSA as Head of that corporation. Nobrega is probably a better choice at the Central Bank that at Finance, but having Giordani and Maniglia in the Planning/Finance axis is very bothersome. Neither has the depth and technical expertise for the jobs. Moreover, Giordani has some very peculiar economic ideas. Baduell’s sister is at least a veteran of the Health Ministry, a career civil servant from even before Chavez came to power.
In the end, Chavez’ new, new Government looks the same.