Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro is warning that he’ll take up arms and lead a revolution if a government comes into power that wants to hand the country’s “riches” to “imperialist” forces.
In a campaign speech Wednesday, Maduro — who is hoping to win a new six-year term in a highly questioned May 20 election — accused his nearest opposition rival, Henri Falcón, of wanting to sell the country out to “the gringos.”
“If some day a government was in power that intended to hand over [our] riches, I would be the first one to raise the alarm, grab a gun and start an armed revolution with the people, if necessary,” he told a crowd of supporters in Vargas. “I would be the first one to do it, and call the people to arms.”
His opponent, Falcón, a one-time government supporter turned dissident, is struggling to attract voters who are wary that going to the polls will legitimize a deeply flawed electoral process. And most of the major opposition groups are calling for an outright boycott of the election.
Venezuela is pushing ahead with snap elections as the United States, the European Union and many of its neighbors in the region have said the vote will neither be free nor transparent. In the run-up to the election, the government has sidelined key opposition parties and jailed or disqualified some of its most prominent opponents.
Meanwhile, as the Marxist economy implodes, Venezuela’s inflation rate, already by far the world’s highest, spiked from 4,966 percent to nearly 18,000 percent in just March and April — a trend that, if it continues, could push the country’s annual rate to more than 100,000 percent by year’s end, economists say.
The 17,968 percent rate registered at the end of April already surpassed the 13,864 percent rate predicted by the International Monetary Fund for all of 2018.
“What we’re seeing at this point is a giant jump in inflation,” Steve Hanke, a professor at Johns Hopkins University and one of the world’s top experts on inflation, told el Nuevo Herald.
“And it could go much higher than what we’re seeing today,” added Hanke, who calculated the 17,968 percent figure. He keeps a daily record of inflation in Venezuela.
One kilogram (2.2 lbs) of meat today costs about 2 million bolivares, or about $2.35. But the monthly salary of a surgeon stood at less than 6 million bolivares in mid-April.
Worried by the growing discontent among Venezuelans, the Nicolas Maduro government nearly doubled the minimum salary on Monday, raising it to 2.5 million bolivares per month.
That hike is expected to quickly double all salaries in Venezuela, and pour more gasoline on the flames of hyperinflation, according to experts.
The giant surplus of bolivares circulating in Venezuela, the result of printing more and more currency to cover a monumental government budget deficit, is one of the key drivers of the country’s inflation, said Alexander Guerrero, a Venezuelan economist who lives in the United States.
The salary increase ordered by Maduro will simply put more bolivares in the hands of consumers, who will rush to buy the few products available in stores and thereby drive prices even higher.
The government also has increased spending on populist programs as it tries to encourage Venezuelans to vote in controversial presidential elections scheduled for May 20.
Mr Americana, Overpasses News Desk
May 3rd, 2018