Urban Agriculture Minister Vacates Post after Just Two Weeks

Grassroots Chavistas have taken to social media to express their discontent after the Urban Agriculture Minister, Emma Ortega, inexplicably left her cabinet position just two weeks after having been nominated by Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. 

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Emma Ortega was a well respected campesina activist and agronomist (AVN)
Emma Ortega was a well respected campesina activist and agronomist (AVN)
By Rachael Boothroyd Rojas
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Caracas, January 25th 2015 (venezuelanalysis.com) - Grassroots Chavistas have taken to social media to express their discontent after the Urban Agriculture Minister, Emma Ortega, inexplicably left her cabinet position just two weeks after being nominated by Venezuelan President Nicholas Maduro. 

Last Thursday Maduro revealed on Twitter that he had replaced Ortega - a 62 year old outspoken grassroots activist brought into the president’s inner team in a cabinet shake-up on January 6th. 

“I have designated comrade @lorenafreitez as Minister of Urban Agriculture to propel the productive revolution from communities,” he Tweeted.  

The president went on to confirm that Ortega would “keep working from her trench of permanent struggle in Aragua” and appeared to thank her. 

It is unclear whether the seasoned campesina agronomist and longtime Chavista left the position voluntarily or whether she was relieved of her post by the president.  

But the unprecedented short stint in the cabinet position provoked a strong backlash from many Chavistas, who believe that Ortega was ousted for ruffling too many bureaucratic feathers. Others claim that she simply resigned from her post for undisclosed reasons. 

“It seems that what Emma did to be designated as minister has a strong relationship to what she did to be dismissed, that’s called coherency,” reads an article entitled “Who’s Afraid of Emma Ortega?” published by Oscar José Rodríguez Pérez on the critical Chavista website Aporrea.  

“What did Emma Ortega do to be dismissed in just 15 days? The reply is that we believe that she did what she promised to do. Going over the heads of bureaucracy, paperwork, seats, desks, offices, posturing and fawning media types, and she dared to get to work straight away,” reads the piece. 

As a member of the Ezequiel Zamora National Campesino Front, firebrand Ortega had also worked for the Aragua state local government since 2013. She was at the forefront of many street campaigns in March 2015 when US President Barack Obama signed a decree labelling Venezuela an “extraordinary threat” to national security.

Her surprise promotion to minister earlier this month was praised by social movements, who saw her as a representative of the grassroots alternative agriculture movement in the country. 

Videos emerged in the private press in the wake of her nomination as minister, showing the sexagenarian calling on supporters to physically resist a “gringo” invasion of the country in response to Obama’s decree.  

She will be replaced by Lorena Freitez, a young sociologist and former Vice-President for training in the Ministry of Communes. As a member of the urban collective, Tiuna El Fuerte, Freitez also has strong popular support, in particular from cultural grassroots movements. 

Whilst having continued to regularly update her Twitter account, Ortega has made no public reference to the reasons she was replaced.

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