Latin America & Caribbean

Venezuela's Maduro to raise minimum wage

People shop at a supermarket in Caracas on 29 October, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption It is the third increase of the minimum wage this year, after a 10% rise in January and a 30% hike in May

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says he will increase the minimum wage by 15% starting in December.

The raise, the third this year, comes amid an annual inflation rate of 63.4%.

Mr Maduro said the measure and other benefits meant workers would be better off despite the inflation, which he blamed on an "economic war" the opposition were waging against him.

The new wage will be 4,889 bolivars per month ($776; £485 at official exchange rates, $49 in the black market).

'Economic war'

Under Venezuela's strict currency controls, people and businesses can receive US dollars at the official rate only by applying to a government currency agency, and then only for specific purposes such as importing goods or paying for foreign travel.

The amount of dollars available at the official rate is restricted, but the demand remains high. This has caused the black market to flourish.

To applause from party members and workers gathered at an official event, President Maduro said he had "decided to accept the proposal from the workers to decree a 15% rise in the minimum salary from 1 December".

Last week, the president announced that he would raise the salaries of the members of the Venezuelan armed forces by 45%, a move which was heavily criticised by the opposition.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Maduro announced a 45% pay rise for the armed forces

Mr Maduro said the increase was "just" and "well deserved".

"The armed forces are made up of workers who guarantee peace, stability and protection for our country," he said.

"All year round, at all hours they are guarding our borders, and that's why I get indignant when they are attacked by the oligarchy," he added.

Mr Maduro says Venezuela's economic problems are created by a greedy elite which lives off the profits of smuggling and selling goods at inflated prices.

The opposition accuse the socialist government of Mr Maduro and that of his predecessor in office, Hugo Chavez, of mismanaging the economy for the past 15 years they have been in office.

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