Venezuela closed out 2013 with an inflation rate of 56.2 percent and economic growth pegged at only 1.6 percent. The galloping inflation in the oil rich country is the highest of any on the American continents, even while prices appeared to decelerate during the last two months of the year because of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s efforts to control increases. Venezuela’s national consumer price index rose by 4.8 percent in November, followed by an increase by 2.2 percent in December. October saw an increase of 5.2 percent, according to the country’s central bank.
In a press conference at the end of 2013, Maduro said “Inflation of the overall economic war, of speculation and the artificial bubble, reached 56.2 percent.” The annualized inflation rate for 2013 had already reached 55 percent in October, prompting Maduro – an inheritor of socialist policies of the Hugo Chavez government – to send troops to occupy a chain of appliance stores following accusations of “speculation.” Consumers rushed to the markets to buy when Maduro also ordered that thousands of businesses lower their prices in an effort to control inflation.
(Cardinal Jorge Urosa Sabino)
Maduro’s critics noted that he issued the order right before key municipal elections throughout the country in December. The ruling party was overwhelmingly victorious. “Inspection and fiscal measures contained the (inflationary) trend in November and reverse it in December,” read a Central Bank report. Henrique Capriles, who leads Venezuela’s opposition, denounced what he called a “cosmetic” anti-inflationary policy.
Despite Maduro’s victory at the polls, the troubling news about Venezuela’s rate of inflation may pressurize him to restore equilibrium in a country that despite its petroleum riches is lagging in economic growth. During the last two months of 2013, two credit-ranking agencies issued reports that Venezuela’s credit rating is slipping and that it faces financial and economic collapse in 2014.
For his part, Maduro is pointing the finger at non-governmental institutions for the country’s economic malaise. He blamed his party’s opponents for the inflation rate, which he said has undertaken “economic warfare” against his government. “If we had not had the economic war,” said Maduro, “we would have had inflation in the single digits.” As for the Catholic Church, which both Maduro and his predecessor long criticized, the Venezuelan president said it “preached evil about Hugo Chavez for 14 years and conducting right-wing politics from its pulpits…They have lost an opportunity, and even the cardinal has been involved in right-wing political manouevring.” This was an apparent reference to Cardinal Archbishop Jorge Urosa Savino, the highest Catholic ecclesial authority in Venezuela.
As for political opponents, Maduro told a local newspaper that Henrique Capriles and his Unity party “refuses to see that the right has failed and the tremendous defeat that the revolution inflicted upon it” as a result of the December 8 municipal elections.
“The opposition tried to ignore the will of the people and the Constitution. Venezuela did not witness violence because the revolution has the power to prevent it, because if it had depended on the right the country would have gone up in flames and allowed the international community to intervene and bring an end to the revolution,” asserted Maduro.