By Marion V. Ali
Venezuelan ambassador to Belize, Yoel del Valle Perez Marcano, says the price of fuel that his country sells to Belize will not increase despite inflation, a marked increase in pump prices in Venezuela, and escalating concerns about a collapsing economy.
In a telephone conversation with The Reporter, Ambassador Marcano said, “The price of fuel in Venezuela has nothing to do with international prices. The contract with the 18 member countries of PetroCaribe remains in tact.”
The announcement comes in the wake of a 30 percent increase for minimum wage in Venezuela last week, which Venezuelan President, Nicholas Maduro deemed necessary to help address the country’s inflation rate, which literally skyrocketed over the past year to 56 percent, the highest in the world. It also comes after reports that fuel prices in Venezuela could go up to ease the economic strains in that country.
In Venezuela, fuel prices have not gone up since the late 1990’s, and as they currently stand Venezuelans are able to fill their tanks for less than 20 cents Belize.
Ambassador Marcano said that the Maduro government felt that the 30 percent minimum wage increase was an adequate figure at this time, having given a 10 percent increase only four months ago. He added that some Venezuelans who don’t fall within the bracket of minimum wage workers compare their salaries with the minimum wage and find that the minimum wage is “a real salary”, which Bloomberg Businessweek places at 4250 Bolivares or $675 US per month.
But with all that, Venezuelans have complained that the 30 percent increase does nothing to help them, because with it came even more inflation.
One woman told the Bloomberg Economics that the sharp increases in the prices of everyday grocery items to almost double their original prices have made it difficult for her to cope.
Developments in Venezuela follow a spate of violent outbreaks and efforts to overthrow the Maduro regime, under whose administration a Petrocaribe office officially opened in Belize to facilitate the purchase of oil from Venezuela on concessionary terms.
At an earlier forum with the Ambassador, he assured that “as long as the Government of Venezuela exists and there exists the need to promote the development of our brother countries in the Caribbean and Central America, the PetroCaribe agreement shall continue as is and it shall fulfil its historic mission of offering energy for integration and development”.
Critics of the Maduro regime project that this promise could see a sharp reversal if the opponents of the current Venezuelan government somehow get their way and succeeds in overthrowing the government – something that has been tried on a number of occasions but thus far in futility.