Maduro slams business leaders over Venezuela economy comments

Sat Jan 19, 2013 3:47pm EST
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By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's vice president hit out at the country's business leaders on Saturday, saying they were seeking to destabilize the nation while cancer-stricken President Hugo Chavez fights to recover from surgery.

Chavez has not been seen in public nor heard from in five weeks since his latest operation in Cuba, and his heir apparent Nicolas Maduro has taken on an increasingly visible role as the face of the government.

Accused by the opposition of presiding over a troubled economy afflicted by 20 percent inflation and shortages that the authorities blame on hoarders, Maduro rejects the charges as part of a malicious campaign against Chavez's leftist project.

The main private sector chamber, Fedecamaras, complained last week about the "urgent need" to address growing economic imbalances that it said were caused by insecurity, instability and misguided policies. That provoked a stern response.

"It takes your breath away, the hate they have for the Venezuelan people," Maduro said during a televised tour of a market selling state-subsidized food.

"Get lost, Fedecamaras! Here we have a revolutionary government that is going to continue pursuing hoarders, as well as the badness, intrigue and lies which you represent ... there is a psychological war to demoralize and confuse our people."

In Chavez's absence, former bus driver-turned-foreign minister Maduro has increasingly swapped his business suits for the casual tracksuits favored by his boss. But he has struggled to replicate the president's powerful folksy charisma.

For his latest Chavez-like state TV appearance, he adopted something of a greengrocer's manner at the open-air market in Carabobo state, inspecting pastries, holding aloft vegetables and remarking on the freshness of fish.   Continued...

Venezuela's Vice President Nicolas Maduro delivers the state of nation address to national assembly in Caracas January 15, 2013. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins