On Tuesday night Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a cabinet reshuffle o
n his weekly TV show “In Contact With Maduro.”
General Nestor Reverol, a former minister under Hugo Chavez was named Interior Minister. On Monday a court in Brooklyn, New York indicted him for drug trafficking.
According to US authorities, from 2008 to 2010 Reverol and another cabinet minister hindered US investigations into drug trafficking while taking bribes from the traffickers themselves.
During his announcement, Maduro claimed that in his former post, Reverol “broke the world record for capturing traffickers.”
Maduro also sacked vice president for the economy and industry minister, Miguel Perez, who was largely seen as a reformer.
Venezuela is, at this point, a humanitarian crisis. Food shortages, rolling blackouts, hospitals in chaos, and economic ruin have plagued the country since 2014 and things are only getting worse as the regime refuses aid and the price of oil, the country’s main export, remains at record lows.
Economist Steven Hanke calls Venezuela “the most miserable country in the world” because of its almost 300% inflation rate. Last week the government announced that it would soon force citizens to go work in the fields to help solve its food crisis — tantamount to slavery.
Analysts think that this cabinet reshuffle is a sign that Maduro’s regime is taking a hard line against what is now a real threat — the possibility of a national referendum on his presidency. The National Electoral Council approved the oppositions initial proposal for the referendum on Monday.
The thing is, appointing an accused narco-trafficker is a very Hugo Chavez thing to do, but Maduro is no Chavez. There are some in his regime who would like to see Venezuela’s economic problems taken seriously.
“The publication of the Reverol indictment had a significant impact in Maduro’s government and within the ranks of the military, in particular,” Brian Dean of ACG Analytics wrote in a note to clients on Wednesday.
“Even before Reverol’s appointment to a key security post, analysts predicted his indictment would fuel defections within the military and other security services. With a “social explosion” of hungry people on the horizon, Maduro has put the National Police under the command of an accused criminal.”