This week members of President Chavez’s cabinet testiﬁed before the National Assembly in an effort to ensure transparency, participation and open debate regarding government policies and accountability.
In his speech to the National Assembly on Tuesday, Venezuelan Executive Vice President Elias Jaua highlighted how the Chavez administration successfully overcame ﬁve serious crises during 2010, and he afﬁrmed this was only possible through government-community collaboration. Jaua also added that such victories were made, despite ongoing attempts from the rightwing opposition to “take advantage of the situation and generate a climate of chaos”.
The year 2010 was incredibly difﬁcult for Venezuela. There were major crises in areas such as energy supply, banking, bilateral relations with Colombia, as well as emergencies caused by natural disasters and mortgage frauds. Thanks to reliable and efﬁcient policies implemented by the Executive Branch, these situations were overcome and turned into poles of development for the beneﬁt of the population.
“Five crises and ﬁve victories, above all the difﬁculties and problems, we prevailed. The Venezuelan government knows we win the battle by ﬁghting. The actions and efforts of the government were evident in 2010. People can see the difference between now and then”, Jaua exclaimed before the parliament session, at which both opposition and pro-government lawmakers were present.
Concerning the energy crisis suffered in Venezuela during 2010, which was a direct consequence of the drought caused by the climate phenomenon El Niño, Jaua highlighted the collaboration and conscienceness of the Venezuelan people, as well as the efforts of workers from the electricity sector. They showed their strength, struggle and committment to resolving the national crisis by adhering to measures of electricity rationing.
During the ﬁrst semester of 2010, Venezuela was literally in a state of energy emergency, and rationing nationwide severely affected peoples’ lifestyles and comfort. Because of the drought, hydroelectric energy plants - ironically the oil-producing nation’s principal supply of energy - dried up, and both water and electrical energy supply were dangerously affected. Rationing policies ensured the government could keep a minimal level of energy functioning, while the Executive also focused on building thermoelectric plants in several areas of the country. Together, these measures enabled the nation to overcome the crisis.
Another crisis highlighted by Vice President Jaua during his testimony before the National Assembly was the diplomatic conﬂict with Colombia, which resulted in a rupture in relations in July 2010. The break came after now ex-President Alvaro Uribe accused the Venezuelan government of facilitating terrorism and called on the Organization of American States (OAS) and United Nations to intervene in Venezuela. Luckily, shortly thereafter, Uribe left ofﬁce and a new president took over.
The Venezuelan Vice President highlighted the process undertaken by Presidents Hugo Chavez and incoming Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos to restore the bilateral relationship within a fraternal climate of peace and respect.
“We were victorious in the conﬂict with Colombia, thanks to the sincere efforts of the two Governments”, he said.
Jaua stressed that thanks to state intervention, it was possible to protect customers’ savings and ensure justice be brought to those responsible for the illicit acts which caused the banking crisis that affected the nation in early 2010. At least eleven private banks
were intervened by the state from January to March 2010, while half of those were liquidated and others were nationalized or merged into new banking institutions. State intervention ensured customers’ savings were recovered, and minimal damage occured.
Different from how other countries, such as the United States, handled the ﬁnancial crisis by funding the banks, the Venezuelan government decided to focus on the people and protecting individual customers’ savings and assets.
“Those responsible, friends or adversaries of the government, are in jail or running from justice”, Jaua said, adding that the actions undertaken by state agencies were crucial to prevent “that situation from becoming a systemic crisis”.
The Vice President also recalled the measures implemented against real estate companies that defrauded homebuyers nationwide, and he highlighted the efforts undertaken by the government, together with private banks, to guarantee the victims their rights to private property.
Thousands of Venezuelans were scammed by real estate companies that pre-sold properties, which later were never built, or in some cases, buyers were charged excess fees and rates that kept increasing, without the properties being completed and handed over. The Chavez administration expropriated several construction companies and other real estate entities involved in the mass housing fraud and ensured that property owners received their homes at reasonable rates, in due time.
A national movement was formed by those affected by the housing fraud scandal to ensure, together with the state, that such illegal and exploitative actions will never happen again.
Strong rains struck Venezuela in late 2010, displacing more than 130,000 people and leaving dozens dead. Infrastructure and agricultural production were also severely affected. Vice President Jaua stressed that the Chavez administration took measures to effectively respond to the population, especially those families left homeless from the rains.
“We issued decrees of emergency; we created a presidential commission, and an enabling law was enacted to provide laws which guarantee people’s right to a decent home”.
He added: “all these crisis, in general, allowed us to prove that in Venezuela, a Government exists which attends to its people”.
After eight hours of open and direct testimony before the National Assembly, which was broadcast live on national television, the Venezuelan Vice President was met with negative reactions from opposition parlimentarians.
“Eight hours of talking and he said nothing”, declared Assembly member Maria Corina Machado, a staunch adversary of the Chavez government. “He didn’t address the severe problems and social needs of our people”, she added, without acknowledging any of the progress the country has made during the past decade.
Vice President Jaua was accompanied on Tuesday by Minister for Interior and Justice, Tareck El Aissami, Minister of Defense General Mata Figueroa, Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro and Minister for Communication and Information Andres Izarra.
All ﬁve high-level government ofﬁcials testiﬁed before the parliament and responded to opposition inquiries.
This was the ﬁrst time in Venezuelan history that cabinet members appeared before parliament to engage in open debate with lawmakers.