CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela’s streets were quieter than normal on Tuesday but many businesses remained open despite an opposition call for a national strike to protest economic measures announced by socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
Venezuelan 100 bolivar notes thrown by people in a trash bin are seen at a gas station of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA in Caracas, Venezuela August 20, 2018. REUTERS/Marco Bello
The OPEC nation on Monday cut five zeros from prices in response to hyperinflation as part of a broad set of measures meant to address an economic crisis, including pegging the country’s currency to an obscure state-backed cryptocurrency.
Opposition critics slammed the plan as inadequate in the face of inflation that topped 82,000 percent in July and called for a one-day halt of commercial activities.
“Don’t got to work, you have the right to protest, because what’s at stake is your life, your future, and your country. Rebel!” opposition party Popular Will wrote via its Twitter account.
Maduro declared Monday a national holiday for banks and consumers to get accustomed to the new pricing scheme, under which items that cost 1,000,000 bolivars last week were remarked with price tags of 10 bolivars.
Fedecamaras, the country’s main business group, slammed the proposal as “incoherent,” noting that the plan’s 3,000 percent minimum wage increase would make it impossible for businesses to keep their doors open.
But the group did not take a position on the opposition-led strike, saying individual members should choose on their own.
The Information Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The ruling Socialist Party announced a march on Tuesday morning to support Maduro’s economic measures that was scheduled to end with a rally at the presidential palace.
The collapse of the country’s once-booming economy has fueled hunger and disease, spurring an exodus of migrants to nearby countries.
In recent days, Ecuador and Peru tightened visa requirements for Venezuelans and violence drove hundreds of Venezuelan migrants back across the border with Brazil.
The discontent has also spread to the military, as soldiers struggle to get enough food and many desert by leaving the country.
Two high-ranking military officers were arrested this month for alleged involvement in drone explosions during a speech by Maduro, who called it an assassination attempt.
Maduro says his government is the victim of an “economic war” led by the opposition with the help of Washington, which last year levied several rounds of sanctions against his government and high-ranking officials.
Reporting by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Paul Simao