With more makeup than I wore on my wedding day, Nicolás appeared on cadena with a recorded year-end message and announced a 40% minimum-wage hike (from Bs. 177,507 to Bs. 248,510), while food stamps increased to 61 tax units (from Bs. 279,000 to Bs. 549,000), which now represent 69% of the Bs. 797,510 of the so-called integral minimum wage, even though food stamps aren’t part of a salary: the fact that food becomes the main incentive to go to work is demoralizing!
As if we needed for things to get any worse, food stamps are back in ticket format. Shopkeepers must be thrilled, since paper tickets aren’t money or even the guarantee of payment, must less with a 2,700% inflation rate. Pensions for retirees, which accounted for 50% of the salary until yesterday, are now just 43% of the announced wage.
2017 ends with six minimum wage hikes (January, May, July, September, November and December,) which took the salary from Bs. 40,638.15 in January, to Bs. 248,510 -around two dollars- starting January 2, 2018. Far from keeping inflation in check, each of these raises have accelerated it and horribly crippled the bolívar’s purchasing power: with this new raise, we can buy only a quarter of what we could buy a year ago.
The basic food basket for November reached thirteen million bolívares, and the new wage can cover for only 6% of its cost. Unilaterally and rashly implementing a minimum wage raise, without applying the necessary policies to reduce inflation, only worsens the problem and shows the government’s colossal lack of responsibility.
But according to Nicolàs, “despite media persecution, we’re still world leaders;” in repression and violations, I guess. He called for a meeting with all local authorities on January 6 to begin “the process of building the plan for the country 2019-2025” -the nation’s second socialist plan-, as if there were no elections scheduled for 2018, or as if he knew he’d be re-elected.
He also said that Venezuela is seen as “a guarantor of peace” in the region, because the Venezuelan exodus is an extraordinary blessing for each nation that hosts us. He promised surprises (that he’s been giving much thought to) for private university students. Not a single word about productivity, the only variable that would stop our rampant hyperinflation. Not a single apology for his mistakes, no responsibility for the crimes that marked the year.
Murdered in the pernil line
While Nicolás claimed that he’d protect all pregnant women, a National Guard officer murdered an 18-year old girl in her fifth month of pregnancy. It’s unclear why the officer fired, although one of the witnesses said that the GNB officer was drunk. In any case, all media reports agree that Alexandra was waiting in line for perniles, between km 0 and 1 of the new Caracas – El Junquito road, that a National Guardsman fired several times, murdering Alexandra with a shot to the head and wounding 20-year old Luis Alejandro Medina in the gluteus, and that right after incident, a protest broke out demanding justice. Once more: the military mustn’t engage in public order control! But in 2015, Nicolás thought it was a great idea to authorize soldiers to use firearms to “control” protests: these are the results. Bleak news to end a bleak year.
Against Fe y Alegría
This Sunday, over 60 people armed with axes and machetes entered the perimeter of catholic Radio Fe y Alegría Guajira’s broadcast plant, located in Paraguaipoa, Zulia state. The intruders cut the steel wire holding the 120m iron tower in place. Once it fell, they cut both the tower and the steel wiring, allegedly to sell them as junk in Colombia. The people of Radio Fe y Alegría requested that local police several times take care of the intruders, and when the police finally decided to take action, the robbers had almost taken everything, so the radio station was left without the broadcasting signal they had since 1998, thanks to the inaction of local authorities.
I didn’t expect these atrocities on the last day of such a difficult year, but they happened anyway. By all accounts, 2018 is set to be a disgraceful year, but we must still tell these stories and denounce these crimes, keeping record of this disaster and working to build the change we deserve.