Venezuela ex-planning minister said to slam Maduro as weak leader

CARACAS Wed Jun 18, 2014 2:39pm EDT

Venezuela's Planning Minister Jorge Giordani talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas August 22, 2013.  REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

Venezuela's Planning Minister Jorge Giordani talks to the media during a news conference in Caracas August 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

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CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's former planning minister, who helped the late president Hugo Chavez forge the country's state-driven economic model, has excoriated current president Nicholas Maduro as a weak leader who is straying from socialism, according to a widely circulated document.

The comments attributed to Jorge Giordani, which could not be independently verified, echoed many opposition criticisms of the president and suggested Maduro's efforts to overhaul Chavez-era economic controls may come at a significant political cost.

Maduro on Tuesday removed Giordani, a Marxist academic who helped create the price caps and foreign exchange controls, from the planning ministry in a move hailed as a sign of pragmatism.

"It is painful and alarming to see a presidency that does not demonstrate leadership but rather seeks to affirm it by repeating Commander Chavez's ideas without the proper coherence," reads the document.

It was emailed to Reuters from an account identified as Ramon Yanez, who had served as one of Giordani's deputy ministers. Giordani was not available for comment.

It was not immediately evident what type of document it was, when it was written or to whom it was directed.

The document entitled "Testimony and Historic Responsibility" warned of "capitalist financial mechanisms that will help private individuals capture oil revenue," an apparent reference to a foreign exchange market created this year.

It also says Maduro ignored proposals to attack corruption in the currency control system, which officials have estimated cost the country some $30 billion.

Wall Street has applauded Giordani's exit, saying it heralds greater pragmatism in economic decision-making as Maduro's government struggles with slowing growth and inflation above 60 percent.

Giordani has advocated more state control over foreign exchange, and in 2010 led a campaign to shutter a legal parallel market that boosted the supply of dollars.

Maduro's economic team is going in the opposite direction. It has lifted restrictions on private firms buying and selling dollars and launched the Sicad 2 currency platform, which effectively devalued the bolivar by 88 percent.

Economy Vice President Rafael Ramirez recently told investors in London that Venezuela plans to unify three official exchange rates, which economists broadly see as the first step toward improving growth.

Opposition critics have frequently blamed Giordani for chronic product shortages, saying his management of currency controls left businesses unable to import raw materials and machine parts because they could not get access to dollars.

Dubbed "The Monk" for his modest lifestyle, his supporters praised his asceticism in contrast to the opulence enjoyed by many high-ranking public officials.

(Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)

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