Mixed signals or breakthrough?
Posted: Monday, May 6, 2002
Editorial by VHeadline.com
News Editor Patrick J. O'Donoghue
Economic posts appointments have received favorable reviews from most Venezuelan economists … Fernando Faraco and Janet Kelly indicate that the government is sending the markets a positive signal. Finance Minister Tobias Norbrega Suarez is considered an orthodox economist with ample experience of public finances, while Felipe Perez Martinez is judged to be the right man for the delicate economic planning department. However, there remains a doubt as to who will call the shots and whether both men will have enough elbow room and support from the President to implement the sweeping changes needed to limit public spending and overhaul non-productive sectors.
The political appointments have been received with mixed feelings and the general feeling is that it was just a reshuffle. Government supporters aren't too pleased with the appointment of General Lucas Rincon Romero as the new Defense Minister, owing to doubts about his shaky performance before and during the coup d'etat … it also shows that the President has few candidates acceptable to the Armed Force (FAV) and that he is attempting to restore verticality or hierarchy in a deeply divided institution. It's not clear either whether Rincon Romero's appointment is a sign that the military are "returning to barracks" and leaving government posts to civilians. The opposition hasn't given a definite reading on that aspect as yet.
Diosdado Cabello is also considered one of the Bolivarian Revolution's grayer characters, a good organizer but basically a military man, who obeys and carries out orders and hardly a politician needed to chart the government's course in the choppy waters of civilian coexistence. There is also a sense that Jose Vicente Rangel is a spent force with the difficult task of getting the national dialogue off the ground offset by the fact that people want to talk with the President rather than with the envoy.
In conclusion, a fresh and positive message for the markets but very much dependent on how domestic economic movers act … the key mover inside the Federation of Chambers of Commerce & Industry (Fedecamaras) is the Venezuelan American Chamber of Commerce (VenAmCham). Will it send a positive message to US investors to come or will it hedge its bets and continue to play the political insecurity card? The Europeans have no fear of Felipe Perez Martinez' Fourth Way but it's clear that the President is bent on following through his political agenda and won't be rushed into making hasty political changes. During his Sunday radio show, the President insists that the Constitution is a 2-year old baby and that people wanting immediate changes are jumping the gun, especially as the demand comes after "they tried to kill the baby."