Interview: Venezuela's constituent assembly vows to diversify national economy

2017-09-13 14:01:16 GMT2017-09-13 22:01:16(Beijing Time) Xinhua English

by Pei Jianrong, Victoria Arguello

CARACAS, Sept. 13 (Xinhua) -- The president of Venezuela's National Constituent Assembly (ANC), Delcy Rodriguez, said one of its greatest challenges is to help diversify the country's oil-dependent economy, in a recent interview with Xinhua.

An economic crisis broke out in Venezuela after oil prices plummeted, so diversifying the national economy is key to a sustainable recovery, Rodriguez said.

The ANC is looking at ways to develop the agriculture, pharmaceutical and tourism industries, while continuing to make the most of the country's energy resources, she said.

Over-reliance on oil "facilitated the economic attack" by the United States, Rodriguez said, referring to recent sanctions imposed by Washington.

U.S. President Donald Trump signed an executive order imposing new sanctions on Venezuela last month, which will prohibit dealings in new debt and equity issued by the government of Venezuela and its state oil company.

It was the latest round of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration on the South American country after the ANC elections.

The ANC made economic diversity a "strategic goal" and created a special commission for this after Washington imposed sanctions.

"Venezuela has all the potential to develop and become a real power, not just a country with large oil reserves on the planet," she said.

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro last week submitted eight proposals to the ANC to bolster the economy, including tax reforms and an initiative to drop the U.S. dollar as the benchmark currency for international transactions, amid Washington's attempt to cut off the country's access to the U.S. currency.

Venezuela has potential to develop the pharmaceutical industry which could meet at least 75 percent of the country's medical needs, she said.

"We also have the Caribbean gas belt, the largest gas fields in our hemisphere that have yet to be fully developed, (and) the Orinoco Mining Arc, which is beginning to take shape," Rodriguez said, referring to a mining project in eastern Venezuela.

The South American country also has untapped agricultural potential, she said. While there are 33 million hectares (330,000 square km) of cropland, and abundant water resources, only 4 million hectares (40,000 square km) are cultivated.

"We can do a lot more in Venezuela to develop, to guarantee self-sufficiency and food sovereignty," said Rodriguez.

The ANC has learned from China's experience while making policy guidelines, she added.

The powerful legislative body has a two-year mandate to draft new laws in a bid to overcome the country's political crisis.

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