As the poor get poorer in the socialist paradise of Venezuela, President Nicolas Maduro is enjoying himself with $275 steaks even as he imposed a minimum salary increase of 3,500%, reports El Nuevo Herald based on findings from the National Council of Commerce and Services of Venezuela.
The salary increase has caused nearly 40% of all Venezuela stores to close. Store owners say Maduro's salary increase is just one of many cuts that have contributed to their demise. Not only are the businesses selling items below cost, but they are also paying people unaffordable wages.
"These decisions are leading many business people to say, 'No, I can't do it any more,'" said Maria Carolina Uzcategui, president of the council.
Four in ten stores have been unable to open since the salary increase. Others that have opened are liquidating their merchandise or plan to close definitively.
Furthermore, the Maduro regime has banned stores from increasing prices to cover his salary hike. The owners face prison time if they disobey.
"We have inspections, and they force us to sell at last month's prices," said Uzcategui. "That takes money away from the business because of the hyperinflation, when you can't even sell at yesterday's prices because you lose money."
"And anyone who protests against these measures runs the risk of going to jail, without the right to appeal, without the right to anything, simply because the official whose turn it was to inspect the store just felt like arresting you. He did it, and that's all," she continued.
The legislative National Assembly currently estimates that August saw an inflation increase of 200%, causing the bolivar currency to lose two-thirds of its value.
Economist Orlando Ochoa said the stores cannot survive due to the government having a monopoly on imports.
"The government sector has the monopoly on imports, the currency market is dysfunctional and there's hyperinflation," Ochoa said. "So, if salaries are increased by decree, and the commercial and industrial sectors cannot sell their products because of these problems, and on top of that because of electricity blackouts, infrastructure problems and the loss of qualified personnel, which is leaving the country, then it's easy to understand that many may prefer to close."
Meanwhile, as his people suffer from policies he put in place, Maduro is living the high life, with Eater reporting he enjoyed a $275 steak from celebrity chef Salt Bae in Istanbul over the weekend.