Venezuela’s Maduro Appoints Sanguino as New Central Bank Chief

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

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro appointed long-time National Assembly member Ricardo Sanguino as the country’s new central bank president, replacing Nelson Merentes.

Merentes, one of the longest-serving public officials in Venezuela, handed in his resignation letter on Jan. 20 after being asked to so by Maduro, a person with direct knowledge of the matter, who isn’t authorized to speak publicly, said on Saturday.

Nelson Merentes

Photographer: Carlos Becerra/Bloomberg

“I want us to begin a new stage of development of Venezuela’s central bank in its fight against the domestic and foreign mafias that attack our currency,” Maduro said, according to the statement announcing Sanguino’s appointment.

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 publishing key economic data amid a crash in oil prices and a severe recession.

The mostly recent 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 that year. The International Monetary Fund expects growth to slump 4.5 percent in 2017 with consumer prices accelerating 1,660 percent.

Sanguino, a member of the Unified Socialist Party of Venezuela, is an economist with a degree from Venezuela’s Central University, according to his Twitter account. He has been member of the National Assembly for the state of Tachira since 2000, according to Maduro’s statement. He has also been president and vice president of the National Assembly’s Finance and Economic Development Commission.

Merentes, a 62-year-old mathematician, held the central banking role off and on since 2009. He was finance minister under Chavez on two separate occasions and had various 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.

— With assistance by Eduardo Thomson

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