Venezuela: Maduro initiates gov't 'shake-up'

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Yenny Sanchez, an educator and spokesperson for the Education Workers’ Struggle Collective. Photo from Aporrea via Venezuela A

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced on July 1 the need for “a complete and profound revolution within public administration”.

Maduro appointed planning minister Ricardo Menendez and vice-president Jorge Arreaza to facilitate a “restructuring” of the government system, to take place until July 15.

“From July 1 to 15, we’re going to shake-up the revolutionary government entirely, to change everything and authentically improve socialist efficiency in the Homeland Plan’s development,” Maduro said from the Caracas working-class neighbourhood Los Magallanes de Catia.

The Homeland Plan, drafted by former president Hugo Chavez, is a blueprint for Venezuelan development emphasising social equality, popular organising and economic growth within the framework of Latin American unity.

Menendez, who recently replaced Jorge Giordani as planning minister, spoke of his intent to further the struggle against corruption and the bureaucratisation of public services by heeding the claims and demands of the grassroots communal councils.

“Planning is not a subject for elites,” he said. “As the Bolivarian Constitution says, it is a protagonistic and participative democracy, it’s is a subject for the people.”

After being removed from his position in June, Giordani made headlines after writing a public letter accusing the government of an unwillingness to rein in corruption. He also highlighted what he considered a series of wrong policies responsible for an economic slump.

Menendez and Maduro seemed to allude to Giordani's comments while introducing their plan for a government transformation.

Maduro noted the significant role the government plays in facilitating that change, saying “the government should represent the vanguard of scientific methods of state management … We must know what direction we are headed at all moments, and continue perfecting revolutionary methodology.”

Whether or not the two week “shake-up” entails further cabinet switches remains to be seen, but Menendez’s ascension to office was marked by new economic reforms expected to be fully revealed this month.

Fetraelec, a federation of electrical workers, also issued a public statement that day pointing to internal crisis and conflict they feel has arisen from inefficiency in the state-owned electric company Corpoelec.

Fetraelec president Angel Navas called upon the government to appoint new managers to Corpoelec, to address “a situation we have been denouncing [for a while]”.

In the past year, workers have been blamed and even taken to court for “deliberately causing” the frequent power failures many analysts have considered a form of political sabotage.

Navas said the responsibility lay with Corpoelec’s directors, and that the underlying problem has more to do with workers struggling to do their jobs under a lack of resources.

According to Navas, many workers have also been pushed out by subcontracts, which are illegal due to laws introduced by the Bolivarian government. He also denounced an alleged 60% pay raise for Corpoelec directors while many retired workers have not been paid their dues.

“For this reason, we the workers ask Maduro to remove these authorities, with the knowledge that this is a workers’ army ready and willing to resolve the [nation’s] electrical issues,” Navas concluded.

Carlos Lopez, general secretary of the Bolivarian Socialist Worker’s Centre, expressed his support for Fetraelec’s demands, adding: “This is [an attempt] to solve the grave electrical crisis currently in existence.”

In Barquisimeto, Lara state, a workers' march on June 27 called for direct worker control and further support for the Bolivarian revolution. The workers marched again on July 1, joining forces with educators who have been on vigil for more than two months to protest against a lack of wages.

Hundreds of workers marched through the western city holding signs that read “Chavez is alive, the struggle lives on”.

Yenny Sanchez, spokesperson for the Education Workers’ Struggle Collective, said some teachers had not received their pay in more than a year. Sanchez told reporters: “We are not counter-revolutionaries, we are not fascists or guarimberos [hardline right-wing opposition protesters], we are dignified educators who demand, not ask, respect for the working class.”

[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]