Russia Awaits Venezuela Power Shuffle Before Sending Advisers

(Bloomberg) -- Russia is waiting for Venezuela’s opposition leader to leave office before despatching economic advisers to help its ally President Nicolas Maduro’s crisis-torn government.

Juan Guaido, who’s sought to challenge Maduro by declaring himself Venezuela’s rightful president, is due to step down as head of the National Assembly in early January, though he’s lobbying parties in the legislature for re-election.

If he fails to renew his term, Russia will step up efforts to help Maduro’s officials tackle the economic crisis gripping the oil-rich Latin American nation, Russian Deputy Finance Minister Sergey Storchak said in an interview.

Storchak, who leads a 12-person team focused on Venezuela at the ministry, said Russian efforts to help ease the crisis had been unsuccessful to date because officials in Caracas were reluctant to implement changes without support from the legislature headed by Guaido.

Russia Awaits Venezuela Power Shuffle Before Sending Advisers

‘Main Focus’

“I think the situation will start changing mid-January. I hope they will sum up the year, share data with us and we’ll decide what specialists should be deployed,” Storchak said. “The main focus is on the oil sector. We have suggestions on eradicating administrative distortion, which they allowed to take place during nationalization.”

While the U.S. and some 50 countries recognized Guaido as head of state in his attempt to push out Maduro, American officials are growing concerned he may lose his post amid a slide in his approval rating to a record low of 38.9% last month.

Russian advisers will address the solvency of Venezuela’s national currency, its banking sector and social issues, Storchak said.

“Social security is about targeting. They have this old system that redistributes goods equally,” he said. “This has been seen as an element of social justice but in reality it deepened social stratification in the country.”

Maduro’s government is also receiving advice from Turkish and Chinese experts, Storchak said. With Venezuela repaying Moscow under a restructured $3.15 billion debt contract, Russia is “working for itself” by offering help to boost the economy, he said.

“This is also our political ally,” Storchak said. “They think that our ideas can be useful.”

©2019 Bloomberg L.P.

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