Original art by Mario Dávila
This is trolling and self-flagellation as a form of government: the Maduro administration reshuffled its cabinet for the umpteenth time, and appointed economic czar and PDVSA CFO, Simón Zerpa, as Finance Minister. The previous Minister, Ramón Lobo, was designated as President of the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV).
If you didn’t know, the PDVSA CFO and the Finance Minister are the two government officials who negotiate most of the external debt-related documents, which is funny, because Zerpa is among the newly-minted OFAC sanctionées with whom American companies and individuals are forbidden from doing business with.
During the country’s worst economic crisis, the government is voluntarily making it harder for itself to secure new loans, or renegotiate existing ones, in a reckless dare against common sense.
But is it worth the trouble?
The PDVSA CFO and the Finance Minister are the two government officials who negotiate most of the external debt-related documents.
34 year old Zerpa is very close to Nicolás Maduro and Cilia Flores, first serving as Vice President for Bandes. He has held four top government positions: President of Bandes, President of Fonden, his PDVSA gig and now Finance Minister. His father, Iván, has been the Venezuelan ambassador in China since 2013. Zerpa’s tenure in PDVSA has been marked by his inability to bypass US sanctions to secure new financing, and his incapacity of making a wire transfer on time, putting the company in the brink of default.
Lobo is a former National Assembly deputy from Mérida state, an economist, a former college professor and, predictably, former member of the Venezuelan Communist Party, who joined Chavez in the mid-1990s. Lobo came up through the ranks thanks to his sempai, Vice President Tareck El Aissami. During his deputy tenure, he had several brushes with former speaker and current most-hated person in Venezuela, Henry Ramos Allup, who once told him not to worry of dying from intelligence. Apparently, he’s been more conciliatory with BCV staff than his predecessor, Ricardo Sanguino.
You probably arrived to the conclusion that these guys will not change anything in the system that’s killing our economy; Lobo won’t stop the crazy money-printing machine and Zerpa isn’t able to secure new financing, or lift any of the existing controls choking the economy.
What’s behind these appointments? No answers and a whole lot of questions.