Mérida, 11th June 2013 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government has exposed an alleged extortion ring operating within the state agency which regulates price controls.
On Sunday morning police struck against alleged extortionists working within the Institute for the Defence of People in Access to Goods and Services (Indepabis), the consumer protection agency responsible for ensuring compliance with government price controls.
The head of control and inspection at Indepabis, Trino Martínez, was arrested after police reported finding a large sum of money and a firearm inside his official car. The operation was executed following denunciations to anti-corruption officials, which alleged that some Indepabis staff in Caracas were demanding pay-offs from businesses under threat of unfair sanctions.
Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro confirmed the operation through twitter on Sunday, declaring, “We’re going full out against corruption”. The president of Indepabis, Consuela Cerrada, was also dismissed.
Tackling corruption was one of Maduro’s key pledges before his election in April. However, the release of a recording last month featuring the voice of pro-government journalist Mario Silva appeared to incriminate several state officials in corrupt acts.
Maduro thanked those who had made denunciations against the alleged extortionists operating within Indepabis, adding, “corruption is a sickness of the values of capitalism, let’s all confront it!”
The Venezuelan president appointed former commerce minister, Eduardo Saman to run Indepabis, an organisation which Saman also used to head. Maduro said he had made the appointment “so that he [Saman] undertakes the revolution in the revolution, so that he protects the people”.
Saman is associated with the more radical current within Chavismo, and has previously advocated the formation of a radical socialist current within the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV).
As head of Indepabis from 2008 – 2009 and minister of commerce 2009 – 2010, Saman proposed the nationalisation of supermarket chains Exito and CADA and a hardening of the government’s stance on price controls and regulation. In February 2010 he was sacked by President Chavez, a move which caused much debate in the Venezuelan left.
Saman thanked Maduro for his show of “trust” and promised to “work without rest…to protect the people”.