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Hugo Chavez announced yesterday in his weekly television program “Alo Presidente” the creation of The Ministry of the “Popular Economy,” which will group various state institutions that deal with supporting cooperatives and micro-businesses. Chavez appointed Elias Jaua, the former president of the Venezuelan inter-governmental fund for decentralization (FIDES), as the new minister and also announced increased funding for “Vuelvan Caras,” a national social program that deals with unemployment.

The new office the Popular Economy will join under its direction, the National Institute for Rural Development (INDER), the development bank for microfinance (FONDEMI), the Woman’s Bank, the People’s Bank, the Cooperatives Institute (Sunacoop) and the National Institute of Cooperative Education (INCE), Chavez said.

The earlier ministry for the Social Economy, which had been in charge of many of the institutions that the new ministry for the Popular Economy will now be directing, will be dissolved. Also, a new Ministry of Financing for Development will be created, which will control the National Bank of Development (Bandes), the Industrial Bank of Venezuela (BIV), and the Development Bank of the Andes (Banfoandes). Nelson Merentes, the former head of the Ministry of the Social Economy will direct this new ministry.

$170 million for job creation program “Vuelvan Caras” During his weekly televised program yesterday, the president also announced $170 million for the “Vuelvan Caras” mission, which is a social program designed to create employment through community development projects across the country. The program works closely with 2,067 cooperatives, with a goal of working with more than 5 times that number within three months, according to Chavez. There are 287,000 people currently enrolled in the program and Chavez said he wants this number to reach 408,000 by the end of this month.

New Ministry of Nutrition

The recently created Ministry of Nutrition has a new minister, José Rafael Oropeza. Various food security institutions will be part of this ministry, including the Strategic Nutrition Program (Proal), the Automonous Corporation for Autonomous Services (Casa), and the Mercal program, which sells basic food products at subsidized prices in poor communities.

As part of the plans for this new ministry, Chavez also announced the creation of seven new Supermercales across the country (for a total of 26), 12 new medium sized Mercales and 95 smaller Mercales. And in two months time, the government will open 1974 “Mercalitos,” or small Mercales bringing the number of the smallest discount food stores to 6,423. Chavez also announced the inauguration of 1,830 new food relief kitchens, bringing the total number of kitchens providing prepared meals for the poor across the country to 2,886