Sunday, April 21, 2024

Venezuelans Can’t Afford Food & Medicines Despite Increase in Monthly Pensions

Last month, the Venezuelan government increased pensions, bringing the monthly minimum wage from roughly $2 to about $30, which is still insufficient to make ends meet. The pension in Venezuela is paid monthly to workers who retire after years of Social Security contributions and when they turn 55, for women, and 60 for men. Venezuela has over five million pensioners, according to official sources. Annual inflation slowed down last year but still reached 686.4%, making their pension almost worthless.

The country had experienced a shortage of food, medicines, and hygiene items for years. However, stores are now stocked with imported products, but the high prices in dollars, a currency that’s inaccessible for most of the population, makes it impossible for some to afford basic necessities.

In their low-income neighborhood in Caracas, the capital of Venezuela, Maybel Sequera, 72, and Juan González, 74, shared a plate of noodles and beans for lunch, donated to them by a nonprofit organization since the couple can’t afford food for themselves. Sequeraa and González are pensioners who worked many years as a seamstress and driver.

“Today, (at breakfast) we ate the last little egg. We are going to wait for another blessing to come out there. For the night, God will provide. And if not, you get a glass of water and go to sleep,” González lamented.

Sequera was diagnosed with two types of cancer this year, and to afford medical supplies, she sold her sewing machines, which she used to mend neighbors’ clothes in exchange for money. Nonprofit organizations and churches help at times, but often the elderly find themselves on the sidewalks of the streets in Caracas, selling candy or begging for money.

Luis Francisco Cabeza, Director of Convite, a non-governmental organization focused on care for the elderly in Venezuela, said social security for the elderly population should not just be a pension but should also include things like medical care and recreation.

“The pension is a system that seeks to protect you against the contingency of reaching old age,” he added. In Venezuela, the hospital system is precarious, so patients must bring all medical supplies to be treated.

Elderly pensioners protested the extremely low wages several times across the country last year. At the protests, many could be seen wearing broken shoes and ripped clothes.

NBC News