Production and Commerce Minister Dismissed

Minister Ramon Rosales is the second of three business friendly ministers to be dismissed since last year's coup attempt.

Venezuela’s Minister of Production and Commerce, Manuel Rosales, was dismissed yesterday. He was one of three economic ministers hired last year, following the coup attempt, as a conciliatory gesture to Venezuela’s business sector. The other two in the original economic team were Felipe Perez as Minister for Planning and Development, who was dismissed earlier this year, and Tobias Nobrega, who remains at his post.

Rosales will be replaced by the Vice-Minister of Tourism, Wilmar Castro. Upon accepting the post, Castro said, “In the beginning I will, in principle, continue the astute policies that were begun in the administration of Minister Manuel Rosales and which are now beginning to bear fruit.” He also added that he would increase the focus on the social economy, which will be developed jointly with Bandes, Venezuela’s Social Development Bank, “so that we can consolidate the project of President Chavez.”

Government sources tell that Rosales was seen as too close to big business by many within the government. Also, a while ago Chavez criticized Rosales in a nationally broadcast television program for not fulfilling the government’s goal of engaging in state purchases of 1.1 billion bolivars. By August of this year, the state had made purchases of only 135.8 million bolivars. The importance of this goal is based on the government’s program of targeting purchases to small and medium sized businesses, which are expected to create more new jobs than large businesses do.

President Chavez, however, portrayed the dismissal as a routine change of the team, making his usual comparison to changes in the lineup of a baseball team. Chavez thanked Minister Rosales, saying “that he did a gigantic job, above all following the coup attempt.”

Venezuela’s Reserves at a Six-Year High

Venezuela’s Central Bank (BCV) announced yesterday that Venezuela’s foreign currency reserves had reached $19.228 billion, a high not seen since 1997. Most of these reserves, $18.529 billion are administered by the BCV and 699 million are part of Venezuela’s macro-economic stabilization fund (FIEM), a savings account meant for fiscal emergencies.