Venezuela’s Maduro Said to Seek Ouster of Central Bank Chief

Updated on
  • Nelson Merentes has held BCV post off-and-on since 2009
  • Central Bank hasn’t published key data since end of 2015

Central Bank President Nelson Merentes resigned after being asked to do so by Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, according to a person with direct knowledge of the matter.

Merentes, one of the most long-standing public officials in Venezuela, presented his resignation letter to the president on Friday, the person, who isn’t authorized to speak publicly on the matter said. It isn’t immediately clear who will replace him.

Nelson Merentes

Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

Calls and e-mails to Venezuela’s information ministry and the central bank’s press office went unanswered outside of normal business hours early Saturday.

The central bank has played a largely symbolic role in Venezuela in the past decade after former President Hugo Chavez stripped it of most of its remaining autonomy. In recent years the bank stopped published key economic data amid a crash in oil prices and a severe recession.

The last available data from the central bank showed a 7 percent economic contraction in the third quarter of 2015 and annual inflation of 180 percent at the end of 2015. The International Monetary Fund expects growth to slump 4.5 percent in 2017 with consumer prices accelerating 1,660 percent.

Merentes, a 62-year-old mathematician, has held the role off and on since 2009. He was finance minister under Chavez on two separate occasions and held other posts including lawmaker during the 18 years that so-called Chavismo has been in power in South America’s biggest oil exporter.

When asked about the latest consumer price data at a press conference on Friday, the newly minted Finance Minister Ramon Lobo called reports of 800 percent inflation “preposterous” and said it’s up to the central bank to release the figures.