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A Venezuelan tragicomedy in four acts

By Miguel Octavio

(January 07, 2004) If it were not tragic, this would be considered funny:

Act I (11:41 AM): Dozens of pro-Chavez followers gathered at the Venezuelan Central Bank (BCV) to back the request by President Hugo Chavez to use US$ 1 billion from the country’s international reserves to finance agricultural programs.

Act II (2:25 PM): Central bank Director Domingo Maza Zavala reiterates that the bank can only contribute to agricultural programs via credit operations and never through giving out international reserves.

Act III (3:00 PM): President Hugo Chávez reiterates his request for US$ 1 billion from the international reserves to finance agro-industrial projects. The President says (I heard it live and in instant replay!): “if we have to intervene the Central Bank, it will be intervened”. He adds “the funds I am requesting are not for Hugo Chavez, but for the well being of the country…the Central Bank can not deny it…”.

The President of the pro-Chavez union called the Bolivarian block of workers says after the speech on TV: “it is time to intervene the Central Bank…new authorities need to be named that are more consequent with the people that need social programs”

Act III (5:41 PM): The Ministry of Finance, who was closing the book on a 30 year, US$ 1 billion bond issue this afternoon, issues a press release denying that the Government had any intention of taking control of the Central Bank and that Chavez statements were “taken out of context (!!)” . The press release says’’ the Government has no intention of looking for control of the international reserves or take control of the Central Bank. All of the actions of the Government are framed within the Law and the Constitution, which protects the independence of the Central Bank”

Well, you could have fooled me!

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