[News] Chávez's Address - Minimum Wage Hike, Maintenance of Social Spending in Venezuela
news at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 21 11:15:26 EST 2010
Chávez's Annual Address Includes Minimum Wage
Hike, Maintenance of Social Spending in Venezuela
January 21, 2010 By James Suggett
Mérida, January 18th 2010 (Venezuelanalysis.com)
- In his annual address to the National Assembly,
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced a 25%
increase in the minimum wage this year, promised
that funding to health care, education, and other
anti-poverty programs will not be cut, and spoke
of the influence of both Christianity and Marxism on his government's policies.
"In the year 2009 we declared ourselves in a
position of economic defense, that we would do
all we can to defend ourselves as a people,
guarantee employment, protect salaries, social
security, and social investment, which we define
as of maximum priority," said the president.
Chavez alluded to his government's maintenance of
social spending even as it reduced the national
budget by more than 6% and nearly tripled its
domestic debt in early 2009 in response to a
sharp drop in the price of oil, Venezuela's chief
export, as a result of the world financial crisis.
14 million Venezuelans, who constitute
approximately half the population, regularly
benefit from the government's subsidized and
regulated-price food production and distribution
networks and food cafeterias, which manage 27% of
all Venezuelan food consumption, Chavez said.
"We have to achieve the expansion of [the
state-run food networks] Mercal and PDVAL so that
we continue to provide cheap and high quality
foods for the people," the president added,
emphasizing that the social programs must be
"transitory" and channel people out of poverty.
"There is an important, appreciable difference
between the poor of the past and the poor who
remain now. Now, they have food, medical care,
and free medicines," Chavez said, mentioning the
expansion of primary health care coverage to
nearly 100% of the population. "Some day, they
will get out of their situation, through these transitory programs."
In addition, Chavez said the minimum wage would
be increased by 10% on March 1st, then by 15% in
September. This will bring the minimum wage from
approximately 950 bolivars per month to nearly
1,200 bolivars per month, and it comes in
addition to a 20% minimum wage increase in 2008.
The announcement came a week after the government
initiated its a plan to devalue the national
currency and increase public investments in
non-oil exports and domestic manufacturing to
substitute imports and wean off oil dependence.
It also came as Venezuela's cumulative inflation
in 2009 decreased by nearly six percent compared
to the year before, although it remains the highest in Latin America.
National worker unions, including the country's
largest national union federation UNETE, released
several communiqués expressing their support for
the measures last week, but strongly urged wage
increases to counter the potential inflation caused by the devaluation.
New Electricity Minister
To improve the government's management of the
current national electricity shortage, Chavez
announced that he will transfer his current
finance minister, Ali Rodriguez, to direct the
Electricity Ministry, which was created last
month to handle the crisis. Chavez said he would
merge the Finance Ministry and the Planning
Ministry into one, which will be directed by
current Planning Minister Jorge Giordani.
Last week, Chavez asked for the resignation of
his first minister for electricity, Angel
Rodriguez, after irregularities in the management
of programmed power outages nation-wide caused
public dissent and confusion. In his address on
Friday, he reiterated that the government "does
not have any complex about recognizing errors. I
became aware of a reality, a poorly executed
plan... in no more than 24 hours we rectified it."
Rodriguez will be charged with executing a series
of electricity-saving measures, including
scheduled power outages, mandatory limits on
consumption and operating hours in public and
private institutions, public education and
incentive for consumer conservation, and public
investments in energy production.
What makes the current state of global affairs
historically unique, said Chavez, is that it
represents "all crises united into one... it is
much more than an economic crisis; it is a moral
crisis, a crisis of values, that engulfs the
entire world; it is a financial, food, environmental, and climate crisis."
This crisis is also "a demonstration that not
only is capitalism not the only alternative for
humanity... twenty years have passed since the
end of history,' and this crisis is a
demonstration that capitalism and neo-liberalism
constitute the most horrifying perversion!"
Venezuela's construction of "21th Century
Socialism," commonly referred to as the
"Bolivarian Revolution" in reference to Latin
American independence hero Simon Bolivar, is
responding to this crisis with an approach that
is influenced by both Christianity and Marxism, said the president.
"This revolution, and I say this as a Christian,
is profoundly Christian. Long live Christ the
revolutionary redeemer!" Chavez exclaimed.
"Christ was a socialist, I believe it. Who could
imagine that Christ was capitalist? Christ was
more radical than all of us combined."
Chavez mentioned the influence of other heroes
from Latin American history, including Cuba's
Jose Marti, Venezuela's Francisco de Miranda, and
Nicaragua's Augusto Sandino, but he made special
mention of German philosopher Karl Marx, saying,
"Marxism is the most advanced proposal toward the
world that Christ came to announce more than 2,000 years ago."
With regard to Venezuela's strained diplomatic
relationship with its top oil customer and
political opponent, the United States, Chavez
criticized the administration of President Barack
Obama for backing the coup regime that overthrew
Honduran President Manuel Zelaya last June, and
for unleashing "a thrust of seven stab wounds in
the heart of Latin America," in reference to the
seven Colombian military bases that the U.S. will
use to expand its spying and military operations
across the South American continent.
"As the months passed in 2009, the enigma of
President Obama, an enigma in which the United
States people believed, crumbled to pieces,"
Chavez said. "The events clarified the panorama
for those who might have had illusions about the new U.S. government."
At the start of his address, President Chavez
asked for a moment of silence for the people of
Haiti who are suffering the deadly effects of a
series of recent earthquakes, with estimates
indicating hundreds of thousands of dead and missing.
Chavez urged the world not only to provide aid to
Haiti, but to ask, "Why is Haiti such a poor
country, why does its population depend on family
remittances from abroad for almost 50% of its
income, why don't we analyze the realities that
led to the current situation in Haiti?"
Reading from a letter written by former Cuban
President Fidel Castro, Chavez said, "Nobody says
a word to remember that Haiti was the first
country where four hundred thousand African
slaves trafficked by the Europeans revolted
against 30,000 white owners of coffee and sugar
cane plantations, carrying out the first great
social revolution in our hemisphere."
"Haiti is a net product of colonialism and
imperialism over more than a century; of military
interventions and the extraction of its riches," Chavez read.
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