[News] Chávez's Address - Minimum Wage Hike, Maintenance of Social Spending in Venezuela

Anti-Imperialist News 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.

Global Crisis

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."

Venezuela-U.S. Relations

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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