Caracas – Thousands of Venezuelan retirees were getting in long lines Monday outside banks to collect their pensions, the first time since the new amount of 1,800 bolivars was decreed by the govenrment two weeks ago, the equivalent of $30 at the official exchange rate. The monthly amount will be paid in four installments.
EFE found that pensioners in Caracas waited in front of banks for up to two hours before they opened, a fairly normal practice in this country.
The retiree Maritza Alvarez said the payment system “is a joke,” after demanding the complete payment of her first fraction of 450 bolivars ($7.50).
“They only gave me 90 bolivars (in cash)…the rest I have to spend with a debit card,” the 78-year-old woman told EFE after collecting her partial pension at a private bank in the Venezuelan capital.
At the same bank, pensioner Maria Roa, 70, who traveled from the satellite city of Guatire – some 30 kilometers (19 miles) from Caracas – to collect her money, told EFE that the amount she received Monday wasn’t even enough to buy the medicines to treat her hypertension, which cost over 90 bolivars.
“You have to get up at the crack of dawn, pay the expensive fares to get here…this government ought to have a little more consideration for us seniors,” she said.
Venezuela’s private media reported that such lines are common around the country.
The long lines began two days after angry protests by pensioners demanding cash payments following the confusion caused by several government announcements.
The new amount, which equals the minimum wage, is one of several measures launched by President Nicolas Maduro two weeks ago in an attempt to rescue his country from its economic crisis.
Besides the boost in pensions and wages, the government decreed a price-freeze on 25 products of the basic food basket, restructured the currency by eliminating 5 zeros from the conversion rate of the newly christened “sovereign bolivar,” and is pushing a “savings plan” in gold, with Maduro himself as its first investor.
With all that, EFE has noted that products with regulated prices are getting scarce in supermarkets, and according to the National Assembly, controlled by the opposition, the measures are shooting inflation through the roof – more than 1 million percent in 2018, according to estimates of the International Monetary Fund.