Venezuela’s military is getting a major promotion as the socialist-run country struggles to combat severe shortages and stave off food riots.
President Nicolas Maduro on Monday created a new government initiative to boost production and guarantee the smooth distribution of food supplies in the face of what he called economic sabotage by his opponents. He said the Great Mission of Sovereign Supply will be headed by Defense Minister Vladimir Padrino, who will coordinate the work of every ministry.
As part of the new campaign, control of the country’s five biggest ports was handed to a top military official Tuesday. Maduro said he was tapping army Gen. Efrain Velasco to head the nation’s port authority in order to root out corruption and mismanagement at the point of entry for imported food. Previously, the agency had been under civilian control.
Maduro said he was acting under the authority of an economic emergency decree he declared earlier this year.
As food shortages have worsened this year, Maduro has leaned more on the military and community groups of government supporters to organize food distribution and ease the blocks-long lines that are a focal point for spontaneous unrest and bouts of looting when hungry shoppers are turned away. He has also tried to tighten a rationing system that gives Venezuelans access to staples only on certain days.
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