Maduro's first cabinet: the more things change, the more they stay the same

Check out my brand new podium!
“Hey, guys: Check out my brand new podium right here! It has the word PRESIDENT. IN CAPS!.”

Nicolás Maduro presented last night the list of ministers that will join him in his “government team”in cadena nacional.

The full list is composed of at least more than thirty ministers. There are changes, but major figures will keep their jobs.

Jorge Giordani is still Planning Minister, but his Ministry was split in half, and all public finances will be now handled by the Central Bank President Nelson Merentes.

One important annoucement was the exit of Néstor Reverol as Interior Minster. The head of the Venezuelan Intelligence Service (SEBIN) Miguel Rodriguez Torres replaces him and the Ministry will now be known as “Ministry of Interior, Justice and Peace”. Reverol will continue working in the Ministry, as chief of Venezuela’s Anti-Drug Office (ONA).

Elías Jaua was ratified as Foreign Minister and this makes me wonder how he can do this and his other job as “Protector of Miranda” at the same time. Other people confirmed include Admiral Diego Molero in Defense, Rafael Ramírez in Energy and Oil, Iris Varela in Prisons, Ricardo Molina in Housing, and Ernesto Villegas in Communication & Information.

But there were other changes: Former Information Minister Andres Izarra returns, this time as Tourism Minister, while Jesse Chacon will run the Electricity Minister (really? A “pollster” is now in charge of our electrical grid? Genius!). The curious note was the naming of former fencer Alejandra Benítez as the new Sports Minister.

Finally, Maduro created a new political-administrative figure: the Integral Development Regions (REDI), somewhat inspired by the Regional Vice-Presidencies proposed by the late comandante presidente in the rejected constitutional reform of 2007, undermining descentralization even further. Six “general coordinators” will lead these new regions but most of them are former ministers themselves, which doesn’t bring much confidence.

Already weakened politically by the recent election result, Maduro has decided to enlarge the bureaucracy (now we have SIX Vice-Presidents!) and basically keeping the same inefficient people with him out of loyalty. Meanwhile, political allies like the Communist Party of Venezuela (PCV) were left out of the loop.