Maduro’s Sudden Moves

October 9, 2013


Anyone that thinks they understand the sudden moves made by Nicolas Maduro during the last few weeks, should wait a while, because I don’t think the full picture is clear yet. What I do think is clear is two things: Maduro is not happy the way things are going, he knows his Government is not working well and the importance of Nelson Merentes has been substantially diminished.

In fact, Merentes’ slide seemed to begin earlier than two days ago, when in a puzzling move, Maduro failed to include him in his bombastically-named “Organo Supeiror para la Defensa de la Economia (OSDE)” , which was created on the last day of September and is presided by a General, whose power has been increasing, but despite its name, failed to include Merentes. This discrepancy was noted at the time, but nobody knew exactly what it really meant.

Merentes is clearly paying for his lack of accomplishments. The man that was supposed to be the “pragmatic” member of Maduro’s Caibent, was not energetic enough to push his agenda and the more ideologically minded members of the Cabinet managed to slow down all of his initiatives and Merentes has essentially nothing to show for his almost six months in the Ministry of Finance.

The second sudden move, was the removal of Maduro’s confidant Temir Porras from both the development bank Bandes and the development fund Fonden. Porras was a new figure in the economic side of the Government and had been reported to be Maduro’s sounding board on economic and financial matters. But faster that you could say Temir, he was pushed out last week with no explanation. And there is still no clear idea of what happened there, even if some suggests that Porras was removed due to Maduro’s displeasure with the French intelligent services pulling off the operation that allowed them to catch the drug in the Air France plane. Reportedly Porras’ inability to know about this forced him out. Others suggest that Porras’ team convinced Maduro that the Chinese would lend him the US$ 5 billion in cash, which did not happen.

Then this week, Merentes was removed as Vice President for the Economy, a position that is now occupied by the Minister f Energy and Mines and President of PDVSA Rafael Ramirez.  This position is not that important, but there is a “Revolutionary” Cabinet above the crowded Cabinet, which is composed of six Vice Presidents. This supra-Cabinet meets more often with Maduro and is supposed to have a coordinating role.

It turns out that Ramirez was already part of this supra-Cabinet, so whether it has a meaning or not that he replaces Merentes is not that clear. Ramirez was previously the Vice President for Territorial Development, a position now occupied by General Hebert Garcia (More on him later)

Ramirez being the new Vice-President for the Economy may not be so bad as many think. He is considered to be part of the more ideological and radical branch of the Government, but he has shown in the past that he can be quite pragmatic. In fact, the only area where there have been some positive signs since Maduro took over has been in PDVSA’s flexibility, which has been led by Ramirez. Ramirez may actually be more capable of convincing the radicals that some change is needed.

The problem is that Ramirez is no economist and the change needed is more than a foreign exchange system, like Merentes seemed to think. What is needed is a larger adjustment of the economy and its variables, before distortions gets further out of hand. Ramirez will certainly not deliver that.

Caracas is full of rumors and among them, the possibility that Ramirez may also be moved sideways is one of them. PDVSA is where the money is and some Madurista groups may be trying to get closer to the honey pot and the Royal Family having a bigger influence there.

As for General Hebert Garcia, he now occupies three positions, the one in the supra-Cabinet, the President of Mision Vivienda and the President of OSDE, signifying that Maduro trusts him and he is the point military man to organize the economy and reduce shortages and build housing. Sounds like a tall order for a single person, let alone a Venezuelan General. But as PMB comments today, there seems to be this belief in Chavista circles that the military can organize things despite fifteen years of proving the contrary.

So, stay tuned, Maduro may yet make other moves pronto, which will allow us to better understand the ones he has made, excluding how he fell from that bicycle.

85 Responses to “Maduro’s Sudden Moves”

  1. I am more swamped than in a swamp. I actually was at an ideal place to look for orchids but was otherwise too busy to do so. I went to Kona Hawaii to watch a couple friend of mine participate in the Kona Ironman triathlon. He came in 60th. overall establishing a new Venezuelan record of 9 hours 2 minutes. She finished in 13 hours 40 minutes on her 50th. birthday. I was a volunteer at the swim to bike exchange during the event.

  2. Ira Says:

    Totally off-topic, but since Miguel hasn’t blogged recently because he’s probably in some swamp looking for orchids, here goes:

    When I first went to VZ in 1988, I was amazed how few people knew about the Jonestown tragedy. Was it just my wife’s huge but not news-watching family, or was this not a big news story there? To me, it was one of those remarkable stories that one couldn’t miss.

    There. That wasn’t as bad as my arepa posts, was it?

    • Dr. Faustus Says:

      I much preferred those ‘arepa’ posts. By the way, you should be able to find a ‘tinkerer’ someplace/somewhere near where you live who can fix that contraption. Look! They’re not hard to find….

  3. VJ Says:

    Taken from Veneconomy (Robert Bottome et all)…
    Straight Talk on the Essequibo
    Venezuela’s border dispute with Guyana over the Essequibo territory – a sparsely populated jungle about the size of England between the mouths of the Essequibo and Orinoco rivers – is back on the front pages.
    Venezuelan leaders are once again making now-familiar impassioned nationalist speeches about inalienable historical rights, while Guyana insists that the status
    quo is final and not up for discussion.
    The dispute has been going around in circles like this since 1962, with no realistic prospect of settlement any time soon. Sadly, the debate over the Essequibo inside Venezuela tends to produce considerably more heat than light. Venezuelan decision-makers often seem to lose perspective when dealing with the dispute, and for the better part of two centuries wrongheaded policy on the issue has come out of the Casa Amarilla and Miraflores, making it almost certain that the disputed territory will never be internationally recognized as part of Venezuela.

    Read the rest of this essay in:

  4. HalfEmpty Says:

    Ira, if the US gave a damn about the ship it could actively track what the crew ate for breakfast. This hasn’t engaged the US a whit.

    • Ira Says:

      I’m just saying that for the record, the U.S. likes to know this stuff.

    • Roy Says:


      The U.S. chose to handle this “under the radar”, but (and you are just going to have to trust me on this) they were involved from the beginning. It is just that the U.S. policy is to avoid ALL potential provocation. They do not want to give Maduro the slightest reason to cry foul and use the U.S. to distract the public from domestic problems.

      • HalfEmpty Says:

        I’ll take your word for it Roy, makes sense.

        • Ronaldo Says:

          I hope the ship filled its tanks with low-priced Venezuelan diesel fuel. The cost savings could make this side trip worth it.

          Maduro is actually the one who wanted this incident resolved quietly. It was wrong and makes Venezuela look like it wants to create trouble when none is there. Moreover, if Guyana kicked the Venezuela military’s butt it wouldn’t look good. I would guess that at least 2 or 3 Venezuelan jets would crash by themselves if fighting ensued.

  5. Ira Says:

    Can’t the U.S. tell, whether they’re actively tracking the vessel in real time or not, exactly where it travelled?

  6. Mick Says:

    Except the US cannot keep their noses out of anything. If push comes to shove, there will be a fleet of very expensive, very advanced navy ships patrolling uncomfortably close to the disputed waters in the near future. Remember, Maduro is not the only one looking for distractions.

  7. m_astera Says:

    Re the ship being seized: Maduro is desperate for a distraction. Nothing like a war with a tiny country to provide that.

    • Ira Says:

      I can’t imagine he’d go that far. A war with Guyana wouldn’t be a distraction.

      It would just add one more thing to his list of disasters.

  8. Ira Says:

    I know the above is important, but I have an earth-shattering emergency:

    Last night, I accidentally turned the wrong burner on on the stovetop, and I destroyed my wife’s Arepa thingy. It melted a huge chunk out of it.

    She’s had this thing for 25 years, she doesn’t like the electric ones, and I’m never gonna hear the end of this. She was all over eBay and the rest of the internet and can’t find anything like it–just a simple old-fashioned 4-arepa press.

    She also complains that the electric ones, in addition to having poor heat control, make the arepas too “round” at the top and bottom, not flat enough. (I just stared numbingly at her and simply replied, “Yes, dear.”


    What is it with you Venezuelans and your AREPAS!?

    • m_astera Says:

      Unfortunately, all of the arepas are now made with GMO maize. No, I’m not kidding. So expect kidney failure, as happens in the animals fed them, and as I’m seeing in the Venezuelan people.

      • Ira Says:

        I can’t find anything specifically related to this kind of meal being harmful.

        • Ira Says:

          The EU is a lot stricter than the U.S. when it comes to these threats. Are they doing anything about setting restrictions?

          It’s a hard controversy to tackle, because GM/GE foods make it possible to feed the starving because of higher yield–but ARE we actually feeding the starving? And can people actually decide for themselves whether to take the risk, even if they know about it? (You still gotta feed the kids.)

          On the other hand, it’s always about the money. Always–and companies like Monsanto have a lot of it.

          And on the other hand, American agriculture has always been the envy of the world, and that’s partly due to companies like Monsanto.

          • Ira Says:

            And you mentioned kidney failure–but those rats are growing tumors EVERYWHERE!

            If I show that picture to my wife, she’ll think I’m only doing it because I broke her arepa press.

          • m_astera Says:

            I’m making the assumption that Polar and other companies are buying GMO maize from the US or Brazil but I don’t know if that is true.

          • m_astera Says:

            Most GMO crops don’t have higher yields. Their advantage is they can be sprayed with herbicides that kill weeds, such as glyphosate and atrazine. That means less work and fuel spent on getting weeds out. The new maize has genes to produce an insecticide in every plant cell. Probably not a good idea to eat much of that.

    • ung Says:

      Brentwood AR-130 Arepa Maker 4 Slice?

    • Ira Says:

      Ung–she wants a stovetop thing, not an electric one.

      Astera–I’ll research GMO meal, but I doubt that will change her eating habits.

      But crisis avoided:

      Someone in VZ thinks they know where to find the type she wants…will give to relative visiting Canada at end of November…and nephew in Canada will ship to us.

      • m_astera Says:

        It’s bad news Ira. Really sucks.

      • Aristo Says:

        You can also contact this company:,
        assuming that their arepera is of the type you want.

        • Ira Says:

          Hey–thanks for that! They have a stovetop model!

          Theirs is round and my wife’s was square, but it looks like it’ll do the same thing!

        • Ira Says:

          Oy—the typical Venezuelan business mentality, but please don’t take offense if you think I’m going too far:

          I contacted FIVE arepa establishments in the U.S., and every single one emailed me back. (They couldn’t help me, but proper customer service dictated that they reply.)

          I contacted Primula days ago, and nothing.

    • Iguana_Master_7000 Says:

      LOL, someone hasn’t been paying attention!

      If you have to ask what is it with us Venezuelans and our Arepas!!

      I have to hand it to you though, “Yes Dear” is the best answer you could have given in the circumstances!

      • Ira Says:

        She really wanted to kill me, and amazingly, you can’t even find these in VENEZUELA any more:

        The companies that made them must have headed for the hills under Chavez, and most people already own one. They’re cast iron and last for generations and generations if you don’t stupidly destroy them like I did.

        The one we’re getting can supposedly be had from a CHINESE MERCHANT in some flea market somewhere in Caracas. (That’s what our clandestine agent said…the girl who’ll be smuggling it into Canada for us for later smuggling into the U.S.)


        Miguel, there’s a big story here right under your nose. Forget corruption, drug trafficking, and the loss of civil rights:

        It seems that if there’s one issue that will get Venezuelans really riled up, it’s the arepa.

        Just ask my wife.

  9. Kepler Says:

    VJ, I think this 99 is again GWEH.
    And I think he has a point there: these guys knew this is a highly contested area. As far as I know, it’s the word of the Venezuelan army against the one of the Guyanese. Even if Venezuela’s army is highly corrupt, it might be right this time.
    One thing we do know for sure is that some sectors within the USA are also trying to provoke things continuously. And it is true that US vessels and US air planes (this was a Guyanese with some US staff but anyway) have repeatedly crossed over to Venezuela illegally.

    Hey, man: they have done that a zillion times in every region they might have had a conflict for the last 200 years. It could be possible this time as well, even if just under the flag of a Guyanese ship.

  10. 99 Says:

    word to the diplomats who say they are supposed to reach out and talk to other people: they should also know when NOT to reach out.

  11. 99 Says:

    Anadarko and Guyana knew of the political risk. So why did they do this now and all alone? Hello?

  12. 99 Says:

    as you can see, this area is busy. Why was Venezuela neglectful all these years?

  13. 99 Says:

    wonder what T&T has to say about these vessels transiting their waters

  14. 99 Says:

    Google Map these coordinates

    10 21.0745 N, 57 31.1057 W

  15. 99 Says:

    I also think the ball was dropped with this vessel. Granted how could we know but a lot of people are paid to know this shit. It’s a lack of foresight and foreshadowing.

  16. 99 Says:

    they just had impromptu meet at Ft Tiuna between Maduro and the brass.

  17. 99 Says:

    Mick, I think the embassy folks fucked up. We’re trying to get ambassadors back and this trio decides to visit Bolivar. Bad timing.

    Good recap and backgrounder:

  18. Mick Says:

    Huffing and puffing about embassy workers doing their jobs is one thing, those guys are taking their lives into their hands just by being there. But arresting a civilian research ship under the employ of an American oil company under contract with Venezuela’s neighbor, with 5 Americans aboard to boot, was a whole new level of STUPID! That would be right up there with defaulting on a Chinese loan. What if the US government decided to stop oil trade with them, then where would the few dollars that do manage to make it into the economy come from. I wouldn’t expect your new Chinese masters to keep paying for your free gasoline or subsidized housing.

  19. 99 Says:

    I lost my Bertram 42 in the Gulf of Venezuela when we hit unmarked wreck …

  20. HalfEmpty Says:

    ? I must be missing something? Is the US missing a yacht or some such?

  21. 99 Says:

    Ronaldo and Roy, agree on all counts. But there will be a sub in the area for now

  22. 99 Says:

    The military brass understands what Maduro does not. Don’t fuck with the US Navy. The message has been delivered.

  23. Roy Says:

    This capture smacks of desperation on the part of Maduro. Reminiscent of the Argentina and the Falklands/Malvinas? The U.S. has not even made a statement yet, so they are resistant to being pushed into taking precipitous action. They will work behind the scenes to secure the release of the Americans and will avoid giving Maduro anything that he can work with to stir up nationalistic sentiment over this.

  24. Ronaldo Says:

    Stopping the capture of the ship with U.S. crew would accomplish nothing for the U.S. but to play into Maduro’s propaganda machine. Diplomacy will assure the return of the crew and ship with no armed fighting.

    Now Maduro looks stupid (or even more stupid) because he has to release the ship and crew without losing face. Capturing the ship was a mistake for Venezuela and they know it. It was an act of war and we all know the Venezuela military is afraid of war. Just getting through traffic for a call-up could take days. Then they might have to issue bullets to civilians.

    • Charly Says:

      One source claims the military did it on thei rown without asking any permission from the Colombian and the Cubans got utterly pissed-off. Hope it is true, nothing like indiscipline in the ranks.

  25. HhpO Says:

    The Bolivarians with their silly electro-optical satellite, know where the American warships are. They know what’s in port and what if anything is in the Caribbean. They knew there was nothing that would come to the rescue. They showed the Americans.

  26. HhpO Says:

    The Americans have to seriously start thinking about protecting sea lanes and passageways. I would put a Virginia class attack sub in the area ASAP. I would not let this go unpunished.

  27. HhpO Says:

    The sale raised eyebrows because they got the sensors and combat management system that allows tracking of many targets. They can see but the can’t shoot. Tienen un canon que no hace nada. In the event of hostilities, these ships are sitting ducks for anything. They are giant targets that cannot fire back and defend themselves. In a perfect world, the US Navy would put the fear of God into Armada.

  28. HhpO Says:

    ANBV Yecuana PC-23 was purchased from Navantia. This is a missile boat that was sold sans the missiles (Mk41 VLS). No provision for other missiles can be made. Venezuela will never get the Mark 41 Vertical Launch System. These boats are basically floating white elephants. Four where purchased from Navantia. THese boats among the biggest underreported guisos.

  29. HhpO Says:

    Happened Wednesday, not today

  30. The Sept. inflation numbers are out. 4,4% for the month and 49,4% for the last year. But we have a fatherland.

  31. Roy Says:

    Unfortunately, all of this speculation is reminding me of a mixture of Cold War Kremlinology and housewives speculating about what will happen on their favorite novella tomorrow.

  32. Morpheous Says:

    The question is how they will avoid further depreciation of the parallel rate? Everything is more about tighter controls an more rationing of foreign exchange. This is just like fighting a fire with gasoline. Things are looking real bad! Don’t they know this after 15 years in power? Are they so stupid? If not they are preparing with the Cuban regime something real evil. On the other hand, people continue making jokes of the ever worsening catastrophe. What’s wrong with the Venezuelan people?

    • Paul Says:

      Morpheous….for what it’s worth, my observation is that criminals rob. steal and kill with impunity, government officials robbing the country blind, barrio people getting handouts, virtually everyone that provides a service getting a bribe to perform their service, police stopping and bribing you for payment of supposed infraction.Total lack of ethics or a moral conscience……that’s what’s wrong with the Venezuelan people.Why should they complain? Everyone gets their payday. To hell with the rest.

      • m_astera Says:

        Yup. Honor is non-existent in Venezuela. People’s parents buy cheap aluminium pots to cook in and send leftovers home in, despite aluminium cooking pots being illegal in most of the world. Because their children will not bring them back, they will steal them. It is that bad, steal from your children and your parents. There is no honor, only lying and thieving.

        Let me say that again, so it is clear: Their is no honor, no honesty, nor any respect for honor or ethics in Venezuela.

  33. NT Says:

    FAV0001 update: It arrived at Sabena-technics MRO located at Bordeaux-Merignac airport late Feb early March. It was kept outside of the hangar throughout the summer. There is no word yet on the work done. There could have been a problem with a wing. The interior was not changed. FAV0001 left the flightline around the same time Maduro went public with Airbus-EADs complaint a few weeks ago. There’s a deception campaign designed to confuse and scapegoat Airbus-EADs. The Sukhoi Superjets are a valid angle.

  34. pppppp Says:

    Temir Porras was also pro Airbus. They don’t want Airbus anymore. It’s now Sukhoi Superjet 100. That’s why they made up the presidential airplane damage bit

  35. xp Says:

    Maduro’s flogging the help like rented mules.
    It might just work.

  36. m_astera Says:

    PDVSA is where the money is, and that’s pretty much the whole story, other than guardia nacional being the middlemen for FARC cocaine. Not that I care about the latter. Make it legal and sell it in the farmacias. That would surely bring and end to most of the power and wealth of the military. Unless they made something new illegal, like pan arena.

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