December 11, 2013
Venezuela gov’t creates ‘happiness’ agency
CARACAS — At first, many Venezuelans thought it was a joke: President Nicolás Maduro is creating a Deputy Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness. But no, the leader announced yesterday that there will now be a formal government agency in charge of enforcing it.
President Nicolás Maduro says the new Vice Ministry of Supreme Social Happiness will coordinate all the “mission” programmes created by the late President Hugo Chávez to alleviate poverty.
Budding comedians had a field day yesterday, waxing sarcastic on Twitter about how happy they felt less than 24 hours after the announcement.
Oil-rich Venezuela is chronically short of basic goods and medical supplies. Annual inflation is running officially at near 50 percent and the US dollar now fetches more than seven times the official rate on the black market.
In downtown Caracas, fruit vendor Victor Rey said he’s now waiting for Maduro to create a vice ministry of beer.
“That would make me, and all the drunks, happy,” he said.
A TV journalist whose show was recently forced off the air after he refused to censor political opponents of the ruling socialists, Leopoldo Castillo, called Maduro’s announcement an international embarrassment.
Housewife Liliana Alfonzo, 31, said that instead of a Supreme Happiness agency she’d prefer being able to get milk and toilet paper, which disappeared off store shelves minutes after arriving at stores.
“It’s a Calvary getting the ingredients for any meal,” she said.
Maduro blames the shortages on speculation and hoarding, but merchants say they would go broke if they adhered to government price controls. Chávez spent billions on social programmes, from benefits for single mothers to handouts of apartments and major appliances.
In another unrelated development, Maduro ruled out eliminating foreign exchange controls and accused the political opposition and multilateral lending agencies of encouraging the change in economic policy .
The president specifically insisted that that the World Bank and International Monetary Fund were behind economists calling for the end of the block on foreign currency.
In the speech, the president railed against economists and said that they wanted to “come to Venezuela to end exchange controls and take oil revenue that belongs to the people that Hugo Chávez managed to secure for distribution related to health, education, housing and food.”
Maduro was elected April 14 as Chávez’s chosen successor.
Maduro also railed against so-called ' raspatarjetas ' seeking dollars reserved for travelers within the change control because they are ' bleeding ' the country .
The call method ' raspatarjetas ' allows Venezuelans seek their share of $ 3,000 per year for visitors, with those traveling to Peru or Ecuador , where they use credit cards in some stores to give them share in cash in exchange for a commission.
' Without the controls would not have been possible social investment that has been made in the country, at least 500,000 million. We will transform Cadivi ( the exchange control office ) but will follow the currency sovereign control ' he said.
Despite the controls , capital flight did not stop inflation so far this year exceeded 40 percent , shortages worsened , as measured by the Central Bank of Venezuela at 21 percent, the official exchange rate is anchored in 6.30 bolivars per dollar, while the parallel is quoted at seven times that value. ( Telam )