News / Economy

Venezuela's Maduro to Raise Pressure on Business

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to supporters during a meeting at Plaza Bolivar in Caracas, Dec. 8, 2013.
Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro talks to supporters during a meeting at Plaza Bolivar in Caracas, Dec. 8, 2013.
Reuters
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro pledged to deepen his "economic offensive" to force businesses to cut prices after his ruling Socialist Party won the most votes in weekend municipal elections.
    
With three-quarters of the 337 mayoral races counted by Monday morning, the Socialists and their allies had 49 percent of votes, compared to 43 percent for the opposition coalition and its partners.
    
That result derailed efforts by Maduro's critics to turn the vote into a show of disapproval for his government and the legacy of late socialist leader Hugo Chavez.
    
The president's candidates benefited from a populist crackdown in November to force merchants to slash prices of goods such as TVs, car parts and home hardware.
    
"This week we are going to deepen the economic offensive to help the working class and protect the middle class," a triumphant Maduro told supporters in a rally after the results were announced late on Sunday night.
    
"This week it's going to be the housing and food sectors. We're going in with guns blazing, keep an eye out."
    
Maduro's personal approval rating jumped sharply after he instituted the economic measures, which won over consumers weary of the country's 54 percent annual inflation. Maduro blames the rising prices on an "economic war" he says is financed by political adversaries.
    
The initial steps focused on home appliances and later extended to controls on rent of commercial buildings such as shopping malls, to try to lower prices.
    
Sunday's election was the biggest political test for Maduro since he narrowly won a presidential election in April following Chavez's death from cancer. He called the results a tribute to the late leader whose 14-year rule polarized the OPEC nation.
    
"Here it is, commander, the gift of your people ... the gift of loyalty and love," he told a crowd, whose mostly bored expressions broke into joyful chanting at the mention of Chavez's name.
    
Devaluation coming?
  
The results may help Maduro to enact unpopular economic measures such as a currency devaluation that Wall Street investors call necessary to close the government's fiscal gap and reduce capital flight.
    
But extending the price cuts may worsen product shortages and reduce the productivity of a private sector already battered by years of nationalizations.
    
Nor does the majority in the local polls help him address the structural imbalances of a state-driven economy struggling with slowing growth, the highest inflation in the Americas and embarrassing shortages of goods such as toilet paper.
    
Critics say he needs to scrap exchange controls and lift restrictions on private businesses.
    
Economists were left guessing Maduro's next move.
    
"This might strengthen the radicals who pushed for the tightening of price controls that appears to have provided Maduro with the needed electoral boost," Bank of America analyst Franciso Rodriguez said.
    
"On the other hand, it gives the government sufficient room to devalue now that the elections are behind."
    
The Socialist Party had been widely expected to win a majority of the total number of seats because the distribution of voters makes it dominant in rural, sparsely populated constituencies.
    
But opposition leader Henrique Capriles had previously said the opposition would win a majority of votes. The results showed the continuing division over Chavez's legacy, he said.
    
"Nobody should feel defeated, we have a country that is divided and we want Venezuela to be united," a disappointed-looking Capriles said in a late-night news conference.
    
"This country does not have a single owner."
    
Opposition's urban gains

    
A man casts his ballot in a box during a municipal elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 8, 2013.A man casts his ballot in a box during a municipal elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 8, 2013.
x
A man casts his ballot in a box during a municipal elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 8, 2013.
A man casts his ballot in a box during a municipal elections in Caracas, Venezuela, Dec. 8, 2013.
The Socialist Party's majority overshadowed opposition gains in crucial areas such as the industrial city of Valencia, where the party's mayor was recently arrested on corruption charges.
    
The opposition also won in Barinas, capital of the late Chavez's home state that has for years been dominated by his family - even though Maduro had decreed Dec. 8 a day of "Loyalty and Love" to the former president.
    
The opposition is also expected to increase the total number of mayors' seats it controls.
    
Even a better overall vote showing for the opposition, though, would have been largely symbolic.
    
The next polls are for a new parliament in late 2015, and opponents will have to wait until 2016 if they want to try to remove Maduro via a recall referendum halfway through his term.
    
"We're not giving up, we're going to keep on fighting," said one opposition supporter and bank manager Oskeiling Lopez.
    
Despite an unexpectedly strong showing in the April presidential vote, Capriles has struggled since then to influence national politics. Some anti-government activists are pressing for more action, such as street protests.
    
"This is further evidence that President Nicolas Maduro and Chavismo have more staying power than some observers believe," the Eurasia group political consultancy said of Sunday's vote.
    
"These mixed results are unlikely to fundamentally change political dynamics, and policy will remain highly interventionist as challenging macroeconomic dynamics keep the government on the defensive."

You May Like

Photogallery Strong Words Start, May End, S. African Xenophobic Attacks

President Jacob Zuma publicly condemned rise in attacks on foreign nationals but critics say leadership has been less than welcoming to foreign residents More

Video Family Waits to Hear Charges Against Reporter Jailed in Iran

Reports in Iran say Jason Rezaian has been charged with espionage, but brother tells VOA indictment has not been made public More

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Action to Stabilize Libya

Amnesty International says multinational concerted humanitarian effort must be enacted to address crisis; decrepit boats continue to bring thousands of new arrivals daily More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?i
X
Steve Sandford
April 17, 2015 12:50 AM
Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Are Energy Needs Putting Thailand's Natural Beauty at Risk?

Thailand's appetite for more electricity has led to the construction of new dams along the Mekong River to the north and new coal plants near the country's famous beaches in the south. A proposed coal plant in a so-called "green zone" has touched off a debate. VOA's Steve Sandford reports.
Video

Video Overwhelmed by Migrants, Italy Mulls Military Action to Stabilize Libya

Thousands more migrants have arrived on the southern shores of Italy from North Africa in the past two days. Authorities say they expect the total number of arrivals this year to far exceed previous levels, and the government has said military action in Libya might be necessary to stem the flow. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Putin Accuses Kyiv of ‘Cutting Off’ Eastern Ukraine

Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his annual televised call-in program, again denied there were any Russian troops fighting in Ukraine. He also said the West was trying to ‘contain’ Russia with sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports on reactions to the president’s four-hour TV appearance.
Video

Video Eye Contact Secures Dog's Place in Human Heart

Dogs serve in the military, work with police and assist the disabled, and have been by our side for thousands of years serving as companions and loyal friends. We love them. They love us in return. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports on a new study that looks at the bio-chemical bond that cements that human-canine connection.
Video

Video Ukrainian Volunteers Search for Bodies of Missing Soldiers

As the cease-fire becomes more fragile in eastern Ukraine, a team of volunteer body collectors travels to the small village of Savur Mohyla in the what pro-Russian separatists call the Donetsk Peoples Republic - to retrieve bodies of fallen Ukrainian servicemen from rebel-held territories. Adam Bailes traveled with the team and has this report.
Video

Video Xenophobic Violence Sweeps South Africa

South Africa, long a haven for African immigrants, has been experiencing the worst xenophobic violence in years, with at least five people killed and hundreds displaced in recent weeks. From Johannesburg, VOA’s Anita Powell brings us this report.
Video

Video Sierra Leone President Koroma Bemoans Ebola Impact on Economy

In an interview with VOA's Shaka Ssali on Wednesday, President Ernest Koroma said the outbreak undermined his government’s efforts to boost and restructure the economy after years of civil war.
Video

Video Protester Lands Gyrocopter on Capitol Lawn

A 61-year-old mailman from Florida landed a small aircraft on the Capitol lawn in Washington to bring attention to campaign finance reform and what he says is government corruption. Wednesday's incident was one in a string of security breaches on U.S. government property. Zlatica Hoke reports the gyrocopter landing violated a no-fly zone.
Video

Video Apollo 13, NASA's 'Successful Failure,' Remembered

The Apollo 13 mission in 1970 was supposed to be NASA's third manned trip to the moon, but it became much more. On the flight's 45th anniversary, astronauts and flight directors gathered at Chicago's Adler Planetarium to talk about how the aborted mission changed manned spaceflight and continues to influence space exploration today. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video Badly Burned Ukrainian Boy Bravely Fights Back

A 9-year-old Ukrainian boy has returned to his native country after intensive treatment in the United States for life-threatening burns. Volodia Bubela, burned in a house fire almost a year ago, battled back at a Boston hospital, impressing doctors with his bravery. Faith Lapidus narrates this report from VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko.
Video

Video US Maternity Leave Benefits Much Less Than Many Countries

It was almost 20 years ago that representatives of 189 countries met at a UN conference in Beijing and adopted a plan of action to achieve gender equality around the world. Now, two decades later, the University of California Los Angeles World Policy Analysis Center has issued a report examining what the Beijing Platform for Action has achieved. From Los Angeles, Elizabeth Lee has more.
Video

Video Endangered Hawaiian Birds Get Second Chance

Of the world's nearly 9,900 bird species, 13 percent are threatened with extinction, according to BirdLife International. Among them are two Hawaiian honeycreepers - tiny birds that live in the forest canopy, and, as the name implies, survive on nectar from tropical flowers. Scientists at the San Diego Zoo report they have managed to hatch half a dozen of their chicks in captivity, raising hopes that the birds will flutter back from the brink of extinction. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Exhibit Brings Renaissance Master Out of the Shadows

The National Gallery of Art in Washington has raised the curtain on one of the most intriguing painters of the High Renaissance. Mostly ignored after his death in the early 1500s, Italian master Piero di Cosimo is now claiming his place alongside the best-known artists of the period. VOA’s Ardita Dunellari reports.
Video

Video Sidemen to Famous Blues Artists Record Their Own CD

Legendary blues singer BB King was briefly hospitalized last week and the 87-year-old “King of the Blues” may not be touring much anymore. But some of the musicians who have played with him and other blues legends have now released their own CD in an attempt to pass the torch to younger fans... and put their own talents out front as well. VOA’s Greg Flakus has followed this project over the past year and filed this report from Houston.
Video

Video Iran-Saudi Rivalry Is Stoking Conflict in Yemen

Iran has proposed a peace plan to end the conflict in Yemen, but the idea has received little support from regional rivals like Saudi Arabia. They accuse Tehran of backing the Houthi rebels, who have forced Yemen’s president to flee to Riyadh, and have taken over swaths of Yemen. As Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA, analysts say the conflict is being fueled by the Sunni-Shia rivalry between the two regional powers.

VOA Blogs

World Currencies

EUR
USD
0.9247
JPY
USD
118.78
GBP
USD
0.6657
CAD
USD
1.2190
INR
USD
62.395

Rates may not be current.