21 May 2019
A woman shops for onions at a market in Caracas on Monday. Photo: Reuters
A woman shops for onions at a market in Caracas on Monday. Photo: Reuters

Venezuela’s annual inflation hits 488,865 percent in September

Venezuelan consumer prices rose 488,865 percent in the 12 months ending in September, Reuters reports, citing a member of the opposition-run congress.

Daily inflation is now 4 percent, according to opposition legislator Angel Alvarado, with monthly inflation rising to 233 percent in September from 223 percent in August.

In an effort to stabilize prices, President Nicolas Maduro in August cut five zeros off the ailing bolivar currency, boosted the minimum wage by 3,000 percent, and pegged salaries to an elusive state-backed cryptocurrency.

Opposition legislators have become the only source for economic indicators after the central bank stopped publishing such information nearly three years ago as the economy began unraveling.

The International Monetary Fund estimates consumer prices would rise 1,000,000 percent in 2018.

Maduro was re-elected in May in a vote that dozens of foreign governments described as rigged.

He insists the election was free and fair and says the situation is the result of an “economic war” led by the opposition and business leaders who are arbitrarily raising prices.

Meanwhile, the government said a jailed opposition lawmaker killed himself by jumping from the 10th floor of the state intelligence agency headquarters (SEBIN) where he was being held, but his party said that he was murdered by the government, Reuters reported.

Municipal lawmaker Fernando Alban, 56, was jailed last Friday for alleged involvement in the explosion of two drones during a military parade in August that was led by Maduro, Interior Minister Nestor Reverol said in a post on Twitter.

“At the moment he was going to be transported to court, while he was in the SEBIN waiting room, he jumped from the window of the building and fell, causing his death,” Reverol wrote.

That account differed from the one by Chief Prosecutor Tarek Saab, who said in televised statements that Alban had asked to use a bathroom and jumped from there.

The opposition First Justice party, to which Alban belonged, said it was holding Maduro’s government responsible.

“With great pain and thirst for justice we tell the people of Venezuela … that Councilman Fernando Alban was murdered at the hands of the regime of Nicolas Maduro,” the party said.

First Justice’s national coordinator, Julio Borges, said Alban’s lifeless body was thrown from the SEBIN’s headquarters on Caracas’ Plaza Venezuela. He did not provide evidence for this nor did he say what led him to believe that Alban was killed.

The party said that Alban’s arrest was owing to statements he made at the United Nations General Assembly last month in New York City denouncing humans rights violations in Venezuela.

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