Teachers, retirees and workers’ unions have marched in at least six Venezuelan cities to demand better salaries as the government of President Nicolas Maduro faces renewed challenges in its attempt to fight inflation.
Venezuela’s inflation is estimated to have reached 305 percent last year, according to a nongovernmental group of economists who calculate indicators in the absence of official data.
The government has not adjusted the salaries of public-sector employees since March last year, part of efforts to reduce spending and increase taxes which allowed Venezuela to emerge from hyperinflation.
But in the second half of last year, demand for foreign currency outstripped the weekly supply of dollars made available by the central bank and the Venezuelan bolivar depreciated further.
The minimum monthly salary for a public school teacher is about $10, while university professors earn between $60 and $80.
“Our salaries are peanuts. I earn 460 bolivars a month [about $23],” said Odalis Aguilar, a 50-year-old teacher who marched in the city of Maracay on Monday. “We need a living wage.”
In the central state of Carabobo, teachers and public sector employees also held demonstrations, saying salaries do not cover the cost of food and medicine.
“Our food is carbohydrates, no protein, few vegetables, it is very basic,” said Reina Sequera, a professor at the University of Carabobo and the main breadwinner in her family of three. “We can’t even afford acetaminophen.”
Economic strife is caused by sanctions imposed on the government by the United States, ruling party Vice President Diosdado Cabello said in comments aired on state television.
Teachers also marched in the western states of Zulia and Lara.
Over the weekend, the government paid public employees a bonus equivalent to $29.80.
Dozens of teachers also marched in San Cristobal, the capital of border state Tachira.
The bonus “does not reach $30. Is that what Maduro lives on? You’re throwing us crumbs,” said Gladys Chacon, president of the Tachira College of Teachers.