Even though wage rises are no reason for pride in the rest of the world, on Sunday Nicolás boasted the thirty-seventh wage hike of the chavista era, the fifteenth of his tenure and the third in 2017. The minimum wage goes from Bs. 40,638 to Bs. 65,020 and the food stamps go from Bs. 108,000 to Bs. 135,000, increasing the overall salary (salario integral) to Bs. 200,021, out of which merely 33% is the actual wage (the figure used to calculate social benefits, bonuses and holidays) and an astonishing 67% is for Cestatickets (food stamps), a regressive, humiliating “benefit.” If the cumulative inflation rate from January to March is 75%, a factual wage rise of barely 34.5% is ineffectual against inflation, the meltdown of people’s purchasing power and without devaluation, the country’s tax situation is a tragedy, so the State depends solely on the Central Bank’s money-printing, with consequences we know all too well.
And there’s more
Nicolás said he acceeded to requests to separate the food bonus from the concept of Cestatickets (food stamps,) so that it could be paid in cash. That would make it seem like people are truly earning more, even though it wouldn’t count for prestaciones sociales (severance payment funds.) He also announced Social Security and Misión Amor Mayor pensioners will now be paid Bs. 84,237 a month. He spoke of his hope of “strengthening the CLAPs” –or CLAPartheid, his system of social control through food– but without a glimpse of changes to solve this disruptive economic recession or even inflation. Nicolás just decreed a rise in unemployment rates, because many private companies won’t be able to pay the new wage and even the public sector itself has to deal with dropping tax revenues even though SENIAT boasts “excellent tax collection.” Wage rises without production only bring bankruptcy and inflation, worsening the social and political crisis.
Lie after lie
Nicolás described the decision to leave OAS as a liberation. He said that chavistas are pacifists and admitted how proud he feels of the job the PNB and the National Guard have been doing because, in his view, repression is fair play if it guarantees peace. Without a single word on how the TSJ snatched its authority, he trashed the National Assembly for its uselessness. Once again, he celebrated an unverifiable accomplishment of houses built, a number that keeps increasing monthly, although no map will show their location.
He also lied about the number of people who follow him on social media, as he demanded prison for opposition leaders, because “In any other country, they would’ve been sentenced to life in prison for much less than what they’ve done”. Again, he lied about elections held, won and acknowledged. The core: his concern for “the people who have let themselves be poisoned by hatred and violence,” the editorial line VTV has developed throughout chavismo. Right after saying that dissidents were immoral and racist fools “from an ideological and social standpoint,” he claimed that he’s committed to prevent the opposition “from ever holding political power in Venezuela again;” although that is determined by popular vote, and he should have other priorities, but you can see. In any case, he used the word “dialogue” about 50 times.
National Assembly Speaker Julio Borges decided to jump ahead and denounce Nicolás’ so-called historic trigger: the call for a Communal Constituent Assembly, which means the complete destruction of the remains of our Republic to replace it with a communal State.
“Mr. Nicolás Maduro, the problem is not the Constitution, it’s you,” said Borges as he explained that there’s nothing democratic about such a figure, which would make it “part of the ongoing coup d’état,” so he ratified the MUD’s demands: free elections with international observers, without political prisoners or disqualifications; respect for the National Assembly; the opening of a humanitarian channel for food and medicines; and disbanding paramilitary groups. He insisted on calling the Armed Forces and the TSJ to reason, emphasizing that this is “a defining moment in Venezuela’s history.” Strangely enough, Nicolás said nothing about Borges’s words, even though he spent considerable time insulting him.
A happy country!
Foreign minister Delcy Rodríguez claimed in a BBC interview that there’s no widespread discontent with the government in the country, only “an active violent agenda promoted by an extremist sector of the opposition” and even though Nicolás has made “urgent calls for dialogue, ”the opposition reacts with violence.”
According to her, conceding is not an option in a negotiation, the TSJ hasn’t stripped the National Assembly off its functions and the latter hasn’t unseated the three Amazonas lawmakers; Venezuela doesn’t need international aid for medicines or food and the electoral branch will call for elections in due time, not through “blackmails from foreign governments allied with the Venezuelan opposition.”
What we’re experiencing is not a dictatorship but “a government trying to defend itself from a coup d’état, from a violent, terrorist rebellion,” and on and on she goes, in a personal lying contest with stories even a fanatic would find hard to swallow. If she ever bothers to read what she says, she’ll ask for a vacation. Those are literally the statements of an insane, profoundly cynical person completely detached from the drama facing most Venezuelans.
Eight nations with Francis
The governments of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Perú, Paraguay and Uruguay issued a communiqué supporting Pope Francis’ recent statements regarding Venezuela’s situation, believing that it’s essential to have “clear conditions” to negotiate a solution to the political, economic and humanitarian crisis, demanding “the necessary guarantees” to negotiate and ratifying their call for an end to violence, the release of political prisoners, the restitution of the National Assembly’s faculties and the establishment of an electoral timetable.
Today is May 1st. There will be two marches in Caracas, one headed for the National Electoral Council and the other for the Supreme Tribunal of Justice. See you there, on the street.