NEW ECONOMIC measures introduced by the Venezuelan government will most likely further the country’s economic woes. Among other government actions, the further devaluation of the national currency and the sharp increase in the minimum wage will wreak economic havoc. Observers in and outside the country’s Catholic Church affirm that the measures are first and foremost designed to destroy the private sector and make the entire population dependent on government aid.
What seems certain is that the new measures will lead to a savage increase in inflation, and in consequence to still more poverty and hunger for the ordinary people. The 60-fold increase in the national minimum wage, which has also been announced, is so enormous that it is feared that many companies and small businesses, which are already struggling to survive, will be forced either to close or to sack a large part of their workforce.
Carlos Larrazábal, the president of the Venezuelan Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are going through the most serious economic crisis in our history, with hyperinflation, a dramatic fall in production, unemployment, collapse of the petroleum sector, destruction of the productive sector – all of it due to the imposition of a 21st-century socialist economic model.”
Archbishop José Luis Azuaje of Maracaibo, the president of the Venezuelan bishops’ conference said: “The concept of repression does not merely mean beating up an individual or group of people; it also means depriving them of what they need—in terms of food, of electricity, of the necessary public services required by basic human dignity; … there are elements bent on disrupting the peaceful life of the citizens, making it impossible for them to work and earn their daily bread, with the result that people feel deeply assaulted in their human dignity.”
Emeritus Bishop Ramón Ovidio Pérez Morales of Los Teques, who is the president of the Plenary National Council of the Venezuelan bishops, said: “These measures are aimed at realizing the socialist project and imposing the communist model, cost what it may, even in terms of the suffering of the people. It is destroying every possibility of private enterprise and aims at the subjection of the people through control of their most basic necessities. The suffering of the population matters little in this almost religious or ideological fanaticism, to which are added incompetence, corruption and the fear of relinquishing power. This is a case of a project aimed at totalitarian control. … The exodus of millions of Venezuelans would cause concern to any government, but not to this one – the exodus is part of the logic of the project. Fewer people means less opposition.”
Father Saúl Ron Braasch of the Venezuelan bishops’ Justice and Peace Commission is working together with Caritas to mitigate the effects of this grave humanitarian crisis. His office is also steering resources to the six Venezuelan states that have suffered recent flooding. The government is refusing to declare an emergency, in exactly the same way that it is also refusing to allow international humanitarian aid to enter the country. The priest said: “The Church has been very effective in helping people, because it has gone beyond merely monitoring and evaluating the level of malnutrition. It has also helped people with the aid it has received from outside the country. However, the Church cannot take over the role of the state, which should be doing this work. The Church is subsidiary. The fact is that the Church herself is not getting the help she should be getting!”