Today, the Superintendencia Nacional de Defensa de los Derechos Socio-Economicos (SUNDDE) [The National Superintendency for the Defence of Socio-Economic Rights] released a list outlining an increase in the prices of chicken, white rice and sugar. In Venezuela, food prices are set according to a “Fair Prices” law that limits how much profit industries can make from selling a product, and how much a product can be sold for. Below is a list of the price increases, with the percentage of the increase in brackets:
- A kilogram of chicken increases from 18.73 Bs. to 43 Bs. (129.57%)
- Boned chicken breast with or without skin increases from 28.84 Bs. to 83 Bs. (187.79%)
- A kilogram of sugar increases from 6.11 Bs. to 12 Bs. (96.39%)
- A kilogram of white rice increases from 7.2 Bs. to 9.5 Bs., (31.94%)
These rising food prices come amid calls for an increase in the minimum wage. Back in early January of this year, Maduro increased the minimum wage by 10%, which – on top of the increases to the wage last year – equals a 59.75% increase in a one year period. While this might seem like an impressive figure, it is important to remember that inflation over the same period was 57.8%, meaning that the “real” increase in the minimum wage was only 1.2%.
This evening, Maduro announced a further increase to the minimum wage of 30% effective May 1st of this year. It will be interesting to see if more wage increases are announced this year, and how they measure up against the rate of inflation.
Scarcity Crisis Intensifies
Rising food prices might be a moot point since many products cannot be found in stores anyway, given the fact that the scarcity crisis has become worse over the past 12 months. According to the Banco Central de Venezuela [Venezuelan Central Bank], while the food scarcity index in March of 2013 sat at 17.7%, the figure for March of this year was 26.9%, for an increase of 9.2%. Central Bank figures also revealed that over the last 24 months, the food scarcity index has increased 16.6%.
The report by the Central Bank found that 19 “priority foodstuffs” had a scarcity index between 53.4% and 100%. 12 other important foodstuffs were found to be suffering from scarcity indices of anywhere between 21% and 49.1%. Here are some specific breakdowns:
- Cooking oil (corn) was found to be 100% scarce in March of this year, meaning it was impossible to find in any store in the country.
- Powdered milk was 90.2% scarce, and pasteurized milk was 98.8% scarce.
- Corn flour was scarce 89.3% of the time.
According to the article, the way that the scarcity index works is by extrapolating how likely you are to find a particular product in a given number of stores. For example, a product with 50% scarcity means that if you look for it in 10 stores, you will only find it in 5.
Just today, Polar – a giant food manufacturing company – announced that it was forced to stop making two brands of its pasta due to a shortage of grain. Polar claims that Cencoex (formerly CADIVI) has failed to provide it with the dollars it needs to purchase imported raw materials.
In Other News
Demonstrations in Carabobo state yesterday left eight people injured, including two Carabobo Police officers. The epicentre of the violence appears to have been the Mañongo neighbourhood of Naguanagua, a city near Valencia. One of the officers suffered injuries to his left hand from an explosive device, while the other officer “received an open wound to his left cheek”. The injured demonstrators suffered injuries from rubber bullets.
Yesterday, Secretary of State John Kerry made some comments about the internet in general, and mentioned Venezuela, Russia, Syria and Egypt as “areas where the battle for freedom from oppressive governments has spilled over onto the internet in recent years”.
Today is Leopoldo Lopez’s 43th birthday, and his 70th day in the Ramo Verde military prison. Speaking on the event, Henrique Capriles said:
We deserve a country were no one is in jail for their ideas, that’s the great country we will have, without vengeance, or hatred, or resentment.
Finally, a couple of videos. This first one shows a pair of reporters from La Patilla, a Venezuelan news website, being temporarily detained by the National Guard while covering a story. The men are quickly taken away on motorcycles, and are then transported a short distance to who I assume is the officer in charge. There, the men are quickly interrogated and asked for their press papers. The National Guard assures the men that they’ve had problems with “fake reporters” in the area, and are just trying to make sure the men are real reporters:
And the video below shows an older lady, maybe a nun, enjoying a photo op with some journalists covering a demonstration somewhere in Venezuela: