In Venezuela, teachers demonstrate for better working conditions

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Demonstration by civil servants to demand better salaries, in Caracas, January 23, 2023.

Venezuelan teachers demonstrate. Since the beginning of January, the protests of the teaching staff, whether primary, secondary or university, have been almost daily. The Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict counted nearly 400 in less than three weeks. Employees of other administrations and retirees are starting to mobilize to also demand better salary conditions.

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” We are hungry “, can we read on the placards of the protesters all over the country. President Nicolas Maduro has twice announced and distributed “good of the fatherland”. But these modest occasional allowances paid – in bolivar, the national currency – into the civil servants’ bank account solved nothing. “We don’t want vouchers, we want decent wages”, explains Carmen Teresa Marquez, invested president of the Venezuelan Federation of Teachers, Wednesday, January 25.

But, while inflation is on the rise again (37% in December 2022) and hyperinflation threatens to make a comeback, the government’s economic room for maneuver seems limited. President Maduro is trying to convince his constituents that US sanctions are solely responsible for their sad living conditions.

Odd jobs and money received from abroad

Captured by its eternal divisions and the preparation of the presidential election of 2024, the opposition seems for its part unable to capitalize on social discontent. “Our struggle is of a union type, we don’t want the political parties to get involved”, vigorously insists Mme Mark. The phenomenon is new.

Fixed at 130 bolivars in March 2022, the minimum wage for the public service paid the price for the devaluation. It is equivalent at the beginning of the year to 6.33 dollars (5.60 euros). National education teachers at the start of their careers earn less than 20 euros per month, including bonuses. And those about to retire, just under 30. More than half of the country’s transactions are in dollars.

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That is to say that the teachers do not live from their salary but from odd jobs. A teacher sells donuts in the street, another does neighborhood manicures, a philosophy professor teaches at the neighborhood gymnasium. Many live on money sent monthly by a sister or son who has emigrated.

The situation of university professors is not much better. “Thirty-three percent of them don’t eat three meals a day,” recalls sociologist Carlos Melendez, director of the Observatory of Universities in Caracas. The rate reaches 48% in the northeast of the country.

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