Venezuela: presidential campaign opens against background of social protest

The living conditions of the population remain difficult, despite a fragile economic recovery. The demonstrations are linked to claim better salaries, while the opposition does not appear as a credible alternative.

by Marie Delcas (bogota, correspondent)

In Venezuela, the government of Nicolas Maduro and the opposition have its eyes riveted on the presidential election of 2024. Part of the population is on the street. For eight weeks, teachers and teachers, nurses, civil servants and retirees have been demonstrating to claim better wages. The Federation of Associations of University Professors called for a national strike on February 28 and 1 March. “Politics, we don’t care. The elections, we don’t care. We want worthy working conditions, immediately,” said a demonstrator in front of the cameras. While the electoral campaign begins, the polls confirm the strong depoliticization of the electorate and the discredit of the policies, whether they are “chavist” or “anti-chavist”.

The fragile embellished of the economy was not enough to improve the living conditions of the vast majority of the population. After eight years of a dreadful recession that saw the country’s gross domestic product to lose almost 80 % of its value, growth has started upwards. It was + 6.8 % in 2021 and + 13.3 % in 2022, according to estimates by the Venezuelan Observatory of Finance (OVF, Private). Insufficient to draw the country from the slump, the recovery did not benefit everyone. Hundreds of thousands of venezuelans left the country again in 2022, bringing the total number of migrants to more than 7 million, according to the UN.

The minimum wage is 130 bolivars, equivalent to $ 5.33 (5.06 euros), at the official exchange rate. OVF economists estimated in December that a Venezuelan family needs 63 minimum wages to cover their essential needs. In January, inflation reached 39.4 %. Hyperinflation threatens. US sanctions are involving the country’s economic recovery possibilities. The government does not have the means to finance social demands.

“The teachers are hungry”

The observatory of social conflicts, a non -governmental organization which monitors demonstrations, has recorded 1,027 demonstrations for the defense of the working conditions of the population since the start of the year (against 173 in January 2022) . The education sector is by far the most mobilized. “The teachers are hungry, sighs the unionist Gricelda Sanchez. The desertion rate in classrooms exceeds 50 %. It is lamentable.” The Venezuelans also demonstrate to protest against water and electricity cuts or the lack gas.

The opposition does not channel social dissatisfaction and do not take advantage of it. “The opposition political parties that boycotted the 2018 presidential election and the 2020 legislative elections have lost credibility and visibility to obtain a political change, considers the historian Margarita Lopez Maya. Social, new and old organizations, occupied the field . They are the ones who express today the desire to transform society. “

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/Media reports cited above.