Venezuela’s president orders 60% hike of minimum wage … in a 500% inflation

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Sunday a 60 percentage increase in the minimum monthly wage, from 40,638 bolivares to 65,021 bolivares the latter value approximately $90 at the present official exchange of 717 bolivares per dollar.

It was the third pay increase the socialist leader has ordered this year and the 15 th since he became president in 2013.

Maduro also handed out hundreds of free homes amid his efforts to counter a strengthening protest motion trying his removal.

“I have decided to increase the minimum wage, pensions …. for all workers in the public administration … by 60 percentage, ” said the president on his weekly broadcast, mandatory on both radio and television.

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In the midst of a bruising economic crisis, the leftist government has not published inflation the necessary data for more than a year but according to Venezuelan consultancy Ecoanalitica, inflation was 525 percentage last year.

New York-based investment bank Torino Capital, use one popular food item as a proxy, put it at 453 percent.

In addition, President Maduro said he had decided to raise the mandatory food subsidy from 108,000 to 135,000 bolivares, “that is, employees will have a minimum legal income of 200, 000 bolivares, ” or about $278 per month.

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The proclamations came as government advocates and Maduro’s foes prepared for rival marchings to commemorate May Day on Monday.

Twenty-nine people have been killed, hundreds injured and more than 1,300 arrested during a month of protests that are the bloodiest to hit Venezuela since anti-government upheaval in 2014 resulted in more than 40 dead.

Protesters accuse Maduro of taking Venezuela down the path of totalitarianism, unrest triggered by the government-stacked Supreme court stripping congress of its last vestiges of power.

They are demanding early elections and liberty for dozens of political prisoner as a way out of the stalemate.

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Minutes after the announcement, the president of the National Commerce and Services Council of Venezuela, Cipriana Ramos, said she was not “surprised” at the projected increase but that it would “hit companies … much harder.”

In remarks to private Union Radio, Ramos said that “putting up with a pay increase at this time of crisis the country is experiencing is impossible.”

EFE, AP and Reuters contributed to this report .

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