Pressure on Chavez produces results

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Apr 29 07:05:07 MDT 2002

NY Times, April 29, 2002

Chavez Shakes Up Cabinet and Promises New Policies
CARACAS, Venezuela, April 28 — Two weeks after returning to office after
his brief ouster, President Hugo Chávez started to shake up his cabinet
today by announcing the appointment of a new vice president and promising
changes in the country's economic policy team.

Mr. Chávez's announcement that José Vicente Rangel, the defense minister,
would replace Diosdado Cabello as vice president was not seen a major
conciliatory move, since Mr. Rangel is considered a close associate of the
president and vigorously defends his policies. But Mr. Rangel has a working
relationship with business leaders, while Mr. Cabello is seen as an

The president, who announced the changes on his weekly television and radio
program, said he was going to "make changes, and I'm starting with my
economic team, revising economic policies." He added that more appointments
would be made.

Mr. Chávez's opponents, as well as crucial allies in the National Assembly,
have asked the president to replace ministers and to appoint officials more
palatable to the business leaders who formed a coalition that carried out a
series of antigovernment protests in recent months. 

Those protests culminated on April 12 with Mr. Chávez's ouster when a
peaceful demonstration degenerated into violence.

Mr. Chávez, who returned to power on April 14 with the help of loyal
military officers, has promised to tone down his combative language and to
rethink economic policies that had antagonized much of the country's middle
and upper classes.

Although many opponents remain cautious about the president's pledge, Mr.
Chávez has taken important steps since his return. He picked Alí Rodríguez
Araque, the well-respected secretary general of the Organization of
Petroleum Exporting Countries, as president of the state-owned oil firm and
appointed a new board of directors, steps that were welcomed by company
executives who had rebelled against a left-leaning board the president had
appointed in February.

In the National Assembly, which is controlled by Mr. Chávez, leading
congressmen have also said 17 of 49 controversial economic laws passed last
year that caused considerable protest could be adjusted.

"We have no choice but to give Chávez the benefit of the doubt right now,"
one leading industrialist said today. "The question that remains is whether
he is willing to redefine his revolution or not," he added. "We need to see
actions, not words."

Opposition politicians and businessmen have asked the government to replace
Adina Bastidas, the minister of production and commerce, and Jorge
Giordani, the minister of planning and a leader of the country's economic
team. Both are considered ideologues whose policies have hurt the economy.

Mr. Chávez said Mr. Cabello would remain in the cabinet, but he did not
specify in what position. He also did not say who would become the new
defense minister.

Louis Proyect
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