CARACAS, Venezuela – Time and time again the “Bolivarian, Socialist, Anti-Imperialist, and Profoundly Chavista” Revolution has stylized itself as a champion of the elderly.
In reality, being an elderly Venezuelan in times of socialist revolution means living a miserable retirement, on a pension so low that it’s all but a death sentence.
1,200,000 Venezuelan bolivars – that’s the amount of money a Venezuelan retiree receives from the government around the 20th of each month, an amount equal to our monthly minimum wage, which translates to roughly $0.63 using the Central Bank of Venezuela’s official exchange rate at the start of March 2021.
What can you buy with 1.2 million bolivars as of March 2021? Absolutely nothing. A dozen eggs hover around 2.7 million ($1.48). Milk varies by presentation, ranging from 2.5 million ($1.35) to upwards of 12 million ($6.85). A kilogram of rice goes for about 1.9 million ($1.05), and a pack of pasta goes for 3.1 million ($1.65).
The 1,200,000 monthly pension is not even enough to purchase a kilogram of white cornmeal — the main ingredient in one of Venezuela’s signature and most basic of dishes: the arepa.
For reference, in 2015, the World Bank set the global poverty line at $1.90 in income per day. It is impossible for an elderly person to sustain themselves with their pension here. $0.63 per month is not enough to feed themselves, pay for services, and let alone be able to afford even the most basic medications that they may require.
The socialist regime of Venezuela continues to triumphantly boast that it managed to grant pensions to 100 percent of Venezuela’s elderly population. What they don’t tell you is that the pensions themselves amount to nothing — to be cheeky, 100% of zero is zero, 100% of the elderly receive an equal share of the socialist misery.
Pensioners often receive additional money stipends distributed through the socialist regime’s Fatherland system, an Orwellian surveillance mechanism built in part by the Chinese government. While way higher than the pension itself, these bonuses hardly do anything against Venezuela’s hyperinflation — they’re akin to throwing a small bucket of water at a burning forest.
One of the most common stipends distributed to the elderly through the above-mentioned system is the “Economic War Bonus.” Recipients of the latest one were given 2,785,000 Venezuelan bolivars — or roughly $1.47 at the current official exchange rate. Since socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro assumed power in 2013, he has continued an “Economic War” narrative first coined by the late Hugo Chavez.
According to this narrative, America – together with the Venezuelan opposition, businessmen, and other internal and external factors – is actively conspiring to bring ruin to the socialist nation through “economic warfare.” The Revolution lays the blame of the shortages, hyperinflation, and all other symptoms of the collapse of socialist Venezuela on them while exempting Maduro and the Socialist Party of any blame with regards to the current state of this country. Twisting the truth so that the Revolution are the heroes in this tragedy and everyone else is the villain is a staple tactic that they constantly employ.
Even if an elderly person were to receive several monthly Fatherland bonuses on top of their regular pension, it still would fall severely short of being able to enjoy life with a modicum of normalcy. This forced life of poverty upon the elderly is not an accident. It is all by design, as the Socialist Party would prefer that the elderly, along with everyone else, depends on the regime and the Socialist Party as much as possible.
Many have no choice but to further rely on the regime’s CLAP system, a heavily subsidized monthly box that contains a handful of low-quality basic products that often come rotten — which, much like the rest of the socialist regime itself, is a system deeply entrenched in corruption whose ultimately goal is to enrich Maduro and his allies.
Deaths by malnutrition among the elderly have become more common with each passing day. The deaths of two elderly siblings in October of 2020 is one of the most horrifying cases in recent times.
If the hunger doesn’t kill them, then lack of healthcare might do the trick, as the elderly often require regular treatment for chronic conditions.
Access to adequate health care for an elderly person who survives through their pension in a country with a collapsed and obliterated healthcare system is even more uphill than for a regular person. The beyond absurd hyperinflation that we’ve lived with for the past years, coupled with the pseudo-dollarization that is holding what’s left of the country together, keeps an elderly person from being able to afford medicine.
To exemplify just how bad it is, I’m going to take one of the most common conditions as an example: high blood pressure. Valsartan is one of the most common medicines used to treat this condition. These days, it can be found for anywhere between 3.8 to 52 million bolivares.
It would take 3 months of pension payments to even be able to afford one of the cheapest offerings — and that’s if and only if hyperinflation doesn’t further push the price.
For reasons like this, Venezuela is often referred to as the worst place to grow old, something that should not come as a surprise if you’ve kept an eye on our ongoing socialism-sponsored catastrophe.
The elderly have actively participated in protests against Maduro and his regime over the inhumane conditions that they’re being subject to. Not even the Chinese coronavirus lockdowns have deterred these men and women from organizing protests that ultimately get repressed by the Bolivarian National Guard and other armed components at the service of Maduro.
#23Jul Esta es la verdad de como le paga Maduro a los adultos mayores, a punta de golpes y maltratos.
Ellos hoy exigían sus derechos en el mismo país que los une a esos funcionarios que también pasan trabajo parejo.
¡Mi respeto y amor infinito a los dignos abuelos de Venezuela! pic.twitter.com/qUYqnFlO6k
— Henrique Capriles R. (@hcapriles) July 23, 2020
It would be remiss of me to omit the fact that pensioners have never had it easy in this country, even before the rise of Hugo Chávez and his socialist revolution. I grew up with tales of my grandmother and her woes regarding her pension in the 1990s, when banking and bureaucracy did not have the luxury of today’s technologies and the internet. While it wasn’t perfect, her pension at least allowed her, a nurse that was not rich by any measure, to live a decent retirement.
Venezuela celebrates the “Day of the Elderly” every May 29. While Maduro and the Socialist Party of Venezuela will definitely use their media apparatus to post self-congratulating events and broadcasts, post images on their myriad social media accounts, and push hashtags in celebration like they usually do, the elderly will once again have little to nothing to celebrate, as they continue to further fall into ever-worsening misery. There is no respite nor peaceful retirement for them within these borders.
We live a complicated reality that, while rather stagnant due to the coronavirus lockdowns, keeps you constantly moving and twisting around so you survive the socialist collapse through your own means — an unwinnable game that keeps you distracted of just how worse all of this is for the elderly that reside in these borders.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.