Venezuelan dictator Nicolás Maduro announced on Wednesday that Venezuelan mothers will receive a 1.5 million bolívar deposit in their bank accounts, a “bonus” to celebrate Mother’s Day in the socialist Latin American country.
According to currency exchange rates monitored by the website DolarToday – which values the bolívar based on real market value, not government estimates – the bonus will put $2.15 in the pockets of Venezuelan mothers.
“We will give Venezuelan mothers a 1.5 million bolívar bonus as a gift for all the mothers and grandmothers of Venezuela, that is why we will win,” Maduro announced during a campaign rally on Wednesday for a presidential election he scheduled for May 20 in which he is competing against two socialists; non-socialist contenders were banned from the ballot.
Opposition groups have repeatedly called upon the only widely known contender in the race, former mayor and Chávez supporter Henri Falcón, to step out of the race, and urged voters to boycott. The Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD), a coalition of opposition leaders prominently featuring members of the Socialist International, issued a statement this week telling voters to not “take part, and leave the streets empty.”
Only women who have applied to receive socialist government identification (carné de la patria) will receive the Mother’s Day bonus, Maduro said:
The bonus’s size is not insignificant in the context of the dire state of the bolívar. At press time, a monthly minimum wage in Venezuela is one million bolívars, or $1.43. The Mother’s Day bonus is nearly double that.
Venezuela was Latin America’s wealthiest nation before the rise of late socialist dictator Hugo Chávez, who nationalized companies, imposed strict price controls, and established a program to give communist allies like Cuba free oil in exchange for political support. Upon Chávez’s death in 2013, Maduro took over, plunging the nation’s economy into a state of chaos and expanding the use of military force to rape, torture, and kill unarmed protesters. Between 2010 and 2017, the Venezuelan bolívar lost 99.9 percent of its value.
The bolívar is currently worth 62 times less than the fictional currency used in the video game World of Warcraft. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted that inflation in Venezuela could reach 13,000 percent by the end of 2018.
Maduro has made the distribution of holiday bonuses – without developing a successful way of generating state revenue – a key part of his economic policy. At the beginning of this month, Maduro announced a “working class bonus” to celebrate May 1, the Marxist International Workers’ Day holiday, also worth 1.5 million bolívars. Two weeks ago, that amount was worth $2.40.
Maduro distributed even more bonuses during the Christmas season, which he has extended to over a month under his tenure. On Christmas Eve, Maduro announced a “Baby Jesus bonus” worth $6 and a special $5 bonus to Venezuelan police officers who remain loyal to the socialist leader. At the time, nearly $5 was worth 500,000 bolívars.
Opposition leaders have repeatedly urged police and military units to abandon Maduro, arguing that he has used them to attack unarmed civilians and deviated from his constitutional responsibility. These calls have been met with moderate interest; dozens of soldiers have fled the country and defected, and one police officer, Óscar Pérez, died in January while attempting to organize a coup against Maduro.
Loyal soldiers receive bonuses similar to those of police officers. In July 2017, reports surfaced that soldiers were being compensated with rolls of toilet paper for their loyalty in attacking protesters; toilet paper rolls have become a luxury in the socialist country.
The Trump administration announced a new round of sanctions against the Maduro regime on Monday. Like the sanctions before it, this round largely targeted individuals associated with the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), not industries or corporations that could have an impact on the lives of the average Venezuelan. Vice President Mike Pence, speaking on Monday before the Organization of American States (OAS), warned that there was “much, much more” Washington could do to pressure Maduro to respect the rights of his citizens.
“Every free nation gathered here must take stronger action to stand with the Venezuelan people and stand up to their oppressors,” he told leaders of the member nations of the OAS.