Venezuela marks May Day with large marches; social programs and benefits to be extended

May 2, 2014
May Day march in Caracas.

In his May Day speech at a large rally in Caracas, President Nicolas Maduro announced the extension of social programs and benefits to workers and the population in general. The opposition held its own march to criticise the state of the economy.

Some of Maduo's announcements to thousands of workers included: a new fund to protect and increase the value of workers’ social security savings, the extension of social programs to workplaces, and the introduction of free wifi in many public parks and urban spaces.

Maduro ordered the “comprehensive” introduction of popular social programs, which include free health clinics and subsidised food outlets, into workplaces as a means of increasing the cover and reach of welfare policies.

Other new labour initiatives include examining ways to improve public administration and ensuring that agreements on collective contracts are reached with public and private sector workers. A presidential commission was also designated to evaluate the implementation of the labour law and resolve any difficulties with the process.

Maduro congratulated workers at the march for “fighting against capitalism”, and asked them to help ensure political and economic “stability” in the coming period.

Citing the recently announced 30% minimum wage rise, which may further rise later in the year, and the increased inclusion of workers in formal employment, Maduro said the large May Day rally was “the greatest demonstration of what side the majority of the people and the working class is on, the working class that wants revolution”.

The president also denounced the recent opposition unrest and street barricades as a bid to “destroy” Venezuela and remove him from office. He called on supporters to “defend the revolution”.

“The whole international right-wing has concentrated forces to try and destroy Venezuela, but it’s all going wrong for them, tomorrow the truth will be known,” said Maduro in allusion to a report on the unrest that is due to be given by the interior affairs minister.

May Day marches in support of the government took place around the country. In the Andean city of Merida, the march had a special significance, coming just a week after the last militant opposition street barricades were dismantled.

Freedom of movement in many parts of the city had been restricted by the barricades for over two months.

Marcelo Lischinsky, a community organiser, said: “We have succeeded in overcoming the barricading of communities, which was a serious strategy aimed at overthrowing the government.

“This strategy was a challenge for Venezuelan revolutionaries, for their patience, for their serenity, but our people did not allow themselves to be provoked … and supply the conditions for a civil war. We know their strategy, and we remain alert.”

Meanwhile, the opposition held their own May Day rally in the wealthy east side of Caracas where they denounced the state of the economy. Current problems include shortages in some basic foodstuffs and annual inflation of 57%.

Dinorah Figuera, a parliamentarian for the conservative Justice First party, told pro-opposition students and workers that Justice First would “continue fighting for the social rights of all workers”.

[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]

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