Maduro made a number of economic announcements from the Miraflores palace last night in a speech that lasted nearly five hours. Below, a recap of the most important announcements:
- Gasoline prices will go up starting tomorrow. The price of 95 octane gasoline will go up by approximately 6000% to Bs. 6 per liter, while 91 octane gasoline saw an increase of approximately 1300% and will now cost Bs. 1 per liter.
- The currency exchange system has been reworked. There are now two exchange rights: a “protected” rate which trades at Bs. 10/USD (previously Bs.6.30/USB), and a “free floating” rate which will be determined by government supply and demand.
- The minimum monthly income will increase starting on March 1 to Bs. 11,578.8.
Maduro also revealed a worrying piece of information during his speech. He showed a graph which placed PDVSA oil sales in 2012 at $37.2 billion, but only $12.587 billion in 2015. Well over 90% of the foreign currency that comes into the Venezuelan government coffers does so through PDVSA.
Opp. Reacts Harshly To Economic Measures
Opposition National Assembly deputy and economist Jose Guerra spoke at the national legislature today, criticizing the latest round of economic announcements as well as the country’s overall economic model.
Guerra stressed out that minimum monthly salary increases are meaningless in the highly inflationary Venezuelan economy. He pointed out that while Maduro increased the minimum monthly salary by 96% in 2015, inflation for that same year reached 181%, making the salary increase essentially meaningless.
Guerra also criticized Maduro for failing to announce even a single measure to help increase production in the country, and derided Maduro’s decision to combine the three state-run supermarket chains – Mercal PDVAL and Abastos Bicentenario – into one entity, saying:
You can’t make one healthy entity out of three corrupt ones.
National Assembly President Henry Ramos Allup reacted to Maduro’s speech by saying that Venezuela is living “through a horrible and painful nightmare”, and said that the PSUV is “afraid of losing power because they’ll have to answer for what they’ve stolen”.
Yesterday, we heard the President’s economic measures. What economic measures? All they decided to do yesterday was more of the same. This won’t solve anything; food scarcity will continue to get worse, medical scarcity will continue to get worse. We’re living a humanitarian crisis, and this [government] would rather have the country starve to death than recognize that we need international help. We can’t get out of this hole.
Who could ever imagine that a country with 32 million people that over the last 16 years earned the unbelievable sum of $1.7 trillion, today finds itself with empty supermarket shelves, no medicine, the highest crime rates in the world, along with the highest inflation in the world? This anti-miracle was made possible as a consequence of demented policies implemented by a man who never should have been President of Venezuela, but was only for the misery of this country.
Francisco Martinez Garcia, the head of FEDECAMARAS [a group representing the country’s private sector], reacted with similar disappointment to the measures, saying:
We didn’t hear any measures to re-start the national productive capacity. There was no mention of the debt that is still owed to private suppliers. The measures were overwhelmingly fiscal in nature. We did not hear any measures to help curb the high levels of inflation that overwhelm Venezuelans.
Central Bank: Food Prices Increased 315% in 2015
The Banco Central de Venezuela (BCV) announced today that the price of food increased 315% in 2015, up from the 2014 increase of 104%. The figure is an average for the increase of all food items and non-alcoholic beverages in the country.
The price of food increased faster than the overall rate of inflation, which the BCV calculated to be 180.9% in 2015.
The BCV also announced that imports into the country fell 18.7% in 2015.
Leopoldo Lopez Marks 2nd Year in Jail
Today marks the two year anniversary of Leopoldo Lopez’s detention and subsequent sentencing to fourteen years in prison to be served at the Ramo Verde military facility. Lopez turned himself in to authorities at a rally in Caracas days after the Public Ministry issued a warrant for his arrest following the eruption of violence that occurred on February 12, 2014.
Yesterday, a video was published on Leopoldo Lopez’s YouTube account to commemorate the day. Below, the video along with my translation:
Narrator: Two years ago, Leopoldo Lopez invited Venezuelans to achieve change in a peaceful, democratic and constitutional way. That called cost him his freedom.
His sacrifice and determination in the face of his unjust imprisonment have inspired millions of Venezuelans.
Lopez [Filmed February 18, 2014]: If my imprisonment serves to wake the people up, to wake Venezuela up definitively, so that the majority of Venezuelans who want change are able to build that change in peace and democracy, then it will be well worth it.
Narrator: Jailed in a military prison and far from tiring or giving up, Leopoldo has been steadfast in his struggle.
Lopez [Filmed May 23, 2015]: Today, the vast majority – the immense majority of Venezuelans want change. The situation is worse than what it was last year. There are more lines, more inflation, more scarcity, more insecurity, more corruption, and there are even allegations of drug trafficking at the highest levels of government. The ordinary citizen and democracy as imprisoned, just like me, by a corrupt elite that is only interested in staying in power. For these reasons, Daniel Ceballos and I have decided to go on a hunger strike starting today with a very clear set of goals; to give a concrete date for the parliamentary elections —
Narrator: After more than 30 days on a hunger strike which hundreds of Venezuelans joined, the Consejo Nacional Electoral set the date for the parliamentary elections, and the people woke up.
On December 6, the people went to vote and we showed that the immense majority of Venezuelans want change.
Today, the Unidad [opposition bloc] is more devoted than ever to achieve this peaceful, democratic and constitutional change in 2016.
Today, all of Venezuela screams, “Freedom for Leopoldo and all the political prisoners, now!”. Today, Leopoldo maintains his promise to the best of Venezuela intact.
Lopez [Filmed May 23, 2015]: Let us not lose hope. Let us not lose faith. Brothers and sisters, we remain full of faith and hope inside this prison. We ask you that you remain hopeful so that together we can open up a path to a better Venezuela. God bless you, God bless Venezuela, and may He help us walk along the path that we all deserve in peace and democracy.
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