Maduro announced an increase to the minimum salary in the country and other social benefits today on his weekly Los Domingos con Maduro television show, rising the total income for Venezuelans earning the minimum salary to Bs. 200,000. The increase is set to coincide with International Worker’s Day, which is tomorrow.
Starting tomorrow, a person working for the minimum salary will receive Bs. 65,021 at the end of each month from their employer, as well as Bs. 135,000 for food from a government subsidy program. While the food subsidy was previously given out in the form of cards that could only be used to buy food, Maduro also announced that the subsidy would now be given in cash.
At the black market exchange rate–which is the one that is most readily available to Venezuelans–the minimum monthly salary is now $46.69.
To put the figure in perspective, the cost of the basic family food basket in March was Bs. 1,068.643.25. The basic family food basket is a unit of measurement that estimates how much money a family of five will have to spend in a given month on basic necessities like food and personal hygiene products. Starting tomorrow, a Venezuelan family will need to earn over five times the minimum monthly salary (and benefits) to meet its needs.
Maduro: I Want Elections, But Opposition Doesn’t
In a particularly egregious display of reality-substitution even for Maduro’s standards, he also said that he was clamoring for elections but that the opposition did not want them. In fact, the regime postponed two electoral processes last year without legitimate cause (the recall referendum against Maduro and the regional elections). One of the opposition’s four demands in this latest round of protests that started in early April is for immediate elections for every elected position in the country, from mayor to President of the Republic.
… the CNE will set a date for the upcoming regional elections this year. And they [the opposition] come to us and ask for elections? What I say to them is, search your heart. Is there a country in the world that has held more elections than Venezuela? In this century? Search your hearts, dammit, if you’re asking for elections!
I say, “elections now!” and they say “elections, no!”. Am I lying?
On the month-long protest movement that has seen millions of Venezuelans braving tear gas, rubber pellets and bullets to demand–among other things–elections, Maduro said:
What they’ve done this April has no name. It’s truly a counter-revolutionary ambush. It’s a violent attack to create chaos in society, to attack political power and to put in place in Venezuela a violent, fascist counter-revolution so that hate and social and ideological hatred can reign.
Opposition Deputies Should Get Multiple Life Sentences
Maduro also spoke directly on the National Assembly deputies who have taken a leadership role in the anti-regime demonstrations that have taken place throughout the month. Without providing specific names, Maduro said that they should be sentenced to serve multiple life sentences for their behaviour:
The right-wing deputies should have been put in jail a long time ago even for the smallest things that they’ve done. In any other country they would receive multiple life sentences.
According to Maduro, opposition deputies have broken a number of laws in Venezuela, including:
… [calling on Venezuelans to] disobey the law and authorities, justifying violence, applauding deaths, lying, manipulating, calling for the disavowal of the national government, calling for an attack on power, everything.
Foreign Minister: Everything is Fine
Foreign Affairs Minister Delcy Rodriguez sat down with BBC Mundo for an interview this weekend in which she claimed that Venezuelan people were happy with PSUV rule, and generally dodged around questions regarding the Maduro regime’s abuses against human rights and democracy in the country.
During the interview, Rodriguez denied that there is a humanitarian crisis in Venezuela resulting in food and medicine shortages, and that any talk of sending humanitarian aid to the country is a “dog-whistle” for intervention by the United States.
Below, my translation of a selection of questions from the interview, which you can read here in Spanish:
BBC: Do you believe that there is great deal of dissatisfaction [with the government] and political division in the country?
Rodriguez: No. I don’t believe that there is a great deal of dissatisfaction. I because that the most extreme sectors of the Venezuelan opposition have been activated and have caused violence.
BBC: But there are thousands of people taking to the streets of Venezuela. There’s a great deal of tension that does not appear sustainable. How will this be resolved?
Rodriguez: We’ve had political division since we founded the Constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela (…) since then, it has been marked by contradictions from polarized sectors. How do we solve this? President Maduro has made numerous calls for dialogue, and the opposition has reacted by acting violently and opposing the dialogue.
BBC: [On the “postponed” regional elections from last year] So, that [electoral] schedule wasn’t met. The regional elections, which were scheduled for the end of 2016, were moved to the end of the first semester [of 2017].
Rodriguez: Yes, we are meeting [the schedule], because when he finish the process of validating these parties, the electoral branch will set a date for the elections that will take place this year.
BBC: Aren’t you afraid to go to elections after the results of the parliamentary elections of 2015 and the deterioration of the economy?
Rodriguez: Not at all. President Maduro has said that we’re having elections, and our people are getting ready for an election. We will hold all of the elections that are called for by Venezuelan law, not the ones called for through blackmail by the opposition’s foreign allies.
BBC: The opposition has made numerous demands of the government, including general elections, the release of political prisoners, and the opening of a humanitarian corridor in order to help with the [lack of] food and medicine affecting the population. Are you close to an agreement on any of those points?
Rodriguez: The humanitarian corridor presumes that there’s a humanitarian crisis. That’s an idea that was created by the Pentagon, because the United States could intervene if there were a humanitarian problem.
BBC: Let’s call it something else, then, but food and medicine going to Venezuela…
Rodriguez: But it’s important. In Venezuela, we have the Barrio Adentro [medical program]. Every person that goes there gets medicine. [The term “humanitarian crisis”] is a dog-whistle for intervention that does not match reality.
The fact that someone tells you that when they go to the pharmacy they can’t find a medicine doesn’t necessarily mean that there is no medicine.
BBC: But there is a problem with accessing medicine in the country…
Rodriguez: The commercial private sector has a problem, maybe, with medicine stock, but that is not the case for the public health sector that exists throughout the country (…) the countries that are asking for an intervention in Venezuela for humanitarian reasons have poverty crises. Children are dying of hunger in those countries. So they have a double standard.
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