Another Raise, Another Date

Your daily briefing for Friday, March 2, 2018. Translated by Javier Liendo.

Photo: Despacho Presidencia

This Thursday on Facebook Live, Nicolás announced the second wage hike of the year — valid starting yesterday — taking the minimum wage to Bs. 392,546 ($1.78). The cestaticket rose to Bs. 915,000, because he also increased the Tax Unit from Bs. 300 to Bs. 500. Although the government insists on adding both numbers to show a more attractive figure (Bs. 1,307,646), the truth is that 70% of the income is represented by food stamps, which do not generate working liabilities and thus can’t be considered salary. Bs. 392,546 don’t buy a 30 eggs package, which costs Bs. 500,000 at the moment. This is another wage raise decreed without consulting the private sector, another raise that will become insignificant before an economic distortion for which Nicolás didn’t present any corrections.

Other announcements

“This raise is to defend the people from the brutal economic war the oligarchy has been waging on us,” said Nicolás, but that’s just another resource for his electoral campaign, adding the special bonus for women (allegedly for five million beneficiaries) and the Holy Week bonus (only with the carnet de la patria) both of Bs. 700,000. With oil output and sale cuts, Nicolás doesn’t have a way to pay either the wage raise or the bonuses, so the BCV will issue more artificial money —  gasoline to put out the fire of hyperinflation!

In this twisted chavista version, Venezuela is a country where the announcement of a wage hike only causes anxiety and the private sector’s fragility only worsens this dark map. Many companies have to lay off some employees in order to cover the raises. Others merely shut down, which further damages formal employment.

Postponing the fraud

National Electoral Council (CNE) chairwoman Tibisay Lucena announced yesterday morning that an “agreement of electoral guarantees” was signed between parties Avanzada Progresista, Copei and MAS — which are not part of Democratic Unity Roundtable, the main opposition coalition — and PSUV. The “agreement” includes the postponement of elections from April 22 to May 20, and presidential elections will be held alongside legislative and municipal council elections; although this violates the Framework Law of the Municipal Public Power and the Law of Regularization of Constitutional Periods.

Henri’s version

Avanzada Progresista (AP) national secretary Luis Augusto Romero said that even when the conditions are not optimal, “they fully guarantee the right of Venezuelans to exercise the vote.” Lacking the political platform to achieve it, Romero claimed that they’ll ensure that this agreement is fulfilled. Ignoring that a proper international observation must start with the inspections that were already performed, including candidate registrations, the AP representative spoke of guaranteeing a qualified observation for all stages of the process. Regarding AP’s expulsion from MUD, he remarked: “It’s difficult for them to expel us from something that stopped existing a while ago.”

AP’s discourse is quite far from a group that wants to lead a united government. Criticism to their decision was foreseeable, why choose such a toxic and arrogant line?

The chavista version

“Elections are the only option, there’s no other alternative,” said Jorge Rodríguez in his eternal role as CNE authority, although he plays so many parts. But Venezuelans have a myriad examples of why voting without guarantees isn’t an option: exiled mayors, Amazonas lawmakers, Juan Pablo Guanipa and Andrés Velásquez, are key examples of this point. Rodríguez denounced that American chargé d’affaires Todd Robinson is pressuring and threatening the opposition so that they don’t participate, and pointed out that the “agreement” doesn’t include the call to parliamentary elections. Without explaining the basis for his perspective, he claimed that international observation will be broad and as expected, he confirmed his meetings with opposition leaders, naming them one by one, only to say that with them, he discussed the document that was signed by those who support Falcón.

Deceit is his mission and division his goal, but he’s lost punch. Predictability is the end of villainy.

The NYT effect

The New York Times published an article yesterday that gathers various conversations that political leader Leopoldo López held under house arrest with one of their journalists. López muses about the country’s future and the scenarios on how we’ll overcome such a deep crisis.

Soon after the news went viral, López’s wife Lilian Tintori denounced that agents of the State Secret Police (SEBIN) entered her home without her consent, but SEBIN also arrested several journalists who were trying to cover Tintori’s complaint. They were later released, but not before causing the condemnation of the National Association of Journalists, the Union of Press Workers and the U.S. Embassy.

Later in the afternoon, Tintori said: “Leopoldo López will never leave Venezuela. After four years of unfair imprisonment he keeps fighting,” and even the NYT Twitter account narrated the effect produced by their article.

More from Tibisay

The ANC approved a decree backing the proposal. Delcy Rodríguez gave it to Tibisay Lucena as if it was transcendental. Later, Lucena reported that candidate registrations will remain open until today, that the Electoral Registry in and out of the country will be extended to March 10 and that the “agreement” was signed by representatives of the four candidates admitted so far: Nicolás, Falcón, Javier Bertucci and Reinaldo Quijada. Lucena didn’t explain how she managed to alter the entire set electoral schedule without holding a single working session with the rest of her colleagues. She promised new announcements, I hope she includes some sort of response to the “multiple irregularities presented by Electoral Registry figures,” denounced by Vicente Bello. For this Friday, Lucena convened the candidates and parties that participated in the “Dialogue of Electoral Guarantees,” so the speed to comply with the Administration’s orders would seem like another piece in her deliberate effort to confirm that branch independence is irrelevant for chavismo.

The international legitimation that the government needs won’t come with the postponement of the date nor with the participation of Henri Falcón, who is not perceived as a true opposition candidate. The strongest criticism about this election has to do with the illegitimacy of the call and the remaining official performance which prevents a free and fair election. With opposition leaders and parties out of the stage, with the CNE itself, without international guarantors for the agreements, the essential conditions haven’t changed and the general perception of the process won’t change either.

Naky Soto

Naky gets called Naibet at home and at the bank. She coordinates training programs for an NGO. She collects moments and turns them into words. She has more stories than freckles.