The End of the Monk (UPDATED)

HoodedFigure_zps1c1ba74aJorge Giordani, who as Planning Minister has done more damage to Venezuela’s economy than any single thing since Zumaque I, has been shunted out of the cabinet altogether for the first time in 15 years.

Official titles don’t come close to capturing his influence. A Utopian socialist with a soft spot for Kim Il Sung, Giordani is the architect of much of the deranged macro- and microeconomic framework Venezuela has run on since 2003. The intellectual father of the multi-tier exchange system, the hyper-regulatory raj and the Fair Prices Doctrine, Giordani proved a consumately skilled player of the Carmelitas power game.

Famously – freakishly – indifferent to the material perks of office, Giordani has no testaferro empire of his own, nor a PDVSA/Border Smuggling style cash-cow to fund a patronage network. His power rested, ultimately, on his unimpeded access to Hugo Chávez’s ear. It’s a testament to his bureaucratic acumen that he managed to hang on to his seat in the cabinet for 15 months after Chávez’s passing. But he couldn’t stretch it out any further than that.

The End of the Giordani Era leaves the nation’s economic fate in the hands of Rafael Ramírez & Co., a gaggle of PSUV hacks that’s sometimes described as “pragmatist”. That’s a label you’d only think to apply to them by comparison to an utterly inflexible extremist ideologue like Giordani. They are, instead, best thought of as relatively “conventional” politicians: a relatively dim-witted bunch who maneuver with a view to hanging on to power, shoring up their position within the PSUV hierarchy and fattening up their testaferro-fronted off-shore accounts without consistent reference to rigid ideological pre-commitments.

It’s a testament to how catastrophically misgoverned the country has been that we tend to think of that as “progress”.

Update by JC: In a long-winded, candid, cathartic goodbye posted on Aporrea, Giordani basically blows a gasket, confirming (at least in part) the power struggles inside chavismo, and calling Maduro out for not being socialist enough. The money quote is a delectable morsel:

“It is painful and alarming to see a Presidency that does not convey leadership, that wants to affirm it by simply repeating, without any coherence, the proposals of Commander Chávez, and by giving massive resources to anyone who asks for them without a fiscal program embedded within a socialist framework that gives those requests some consistency. At the same time, policies when dealing with the private sector are at best confusing, and the pressure of these agents seems to pave the way for the reinstallment of capitalist financial mechanisms that satisfy the need to capture the nation’s oil rents via the financial system. In light of this, there is a clear sensation of a power void in the office of the Presidency, and a concentration of power in other places, destroying the work of institutions such as the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank, and establishing a de facto independence of PDVSA from the central government.”

Wow. Drink that with your morning coffee.