How much would you guess a member of Venezuela’s National Assembly makes?
Go ahead, guess.
Had a guess? Here’s the number – forty thousand bolivares per month. Yes, really. A suplente (stand-in) Assembly member earns BsF 1,500 per session. That’s about half the cost of a carton of eggs – less than what a typical taxi ride costs in Caracas.
These are the men and women who we trust to draft and revise the social contract in which we will operate as a society.
It’s bad enough if you’re from Caracas. But of course most Assembly members represent other parts of the country.
The outgoing National Assembly had the benefit of being able to use downtown hotel Alba Caracas (formerly Hilton) when they came for the sessions. That benefit is no longer. This of course is no surprise given that Alba Caracas is run by no other than Cabello’s wife. So now Assembly members travelling to Caracas must search for their own place to stay on their own dime.
This is a detail we tend to gloss over when we consider the performance of our Assembly members. These aren’t just poverty wages, they’re hunger wages.
In practice, what this means is that anyone pursuing a political career must either be independently wealthy or, worse, rely on an “sponsor”: selling services and trafficking influence. You can have your politicians privileged, corrupt, or hungry: your pick.
Is it any wonder so many National Assembly members spend half their time positioning themselves to run for governor or mayor somewhere? Executive posts like those at least get a budget to play with. The Assembly? No joda…
What kind of social contract will be created if only cronies or the very wealthy are those creating it? If we are to have a legislative body that is able to truly represent the values of the Venezuelans, one free of conflicts of interest and sleaze, you have to pay them. Isn’t that obvious?