Puebla, Mexico, January 5, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced Thursday plans to launch two new social welfare initiatives, including a bonus for holders of a government ID card and a maternity program.
As of Saturday, Venezuelans will be eligible to receive what Maduro called the “Day of Kings Bonus”. The name is a reference to Three Kings Day, a Catholic celebration popular across Latin America which falls on January 6.
Maduro stated the bonus of BsF500,000 is expected to be distributed to around 8 million Venezuelans, or just under a third of the population.
“This is not populism, it is social justice, [it’s] socialism,” Maduro said.
The bonus has been dismissed by opposition critics as too low. At the current exchange rate, the bonus is worth US$44 at the government’s DICOM tier, or US$3.60 on the country’s burgeoning currency black market.
To qualify for the bonus, Venezuelans need to obtain the government’s Homeland Card, which was launched last year. While the government has stated the ID card will be used to better manage social programs and deliver welfare payments, the opposition has largely dismissed the program as a vote-buying scheme. Maduro, however, has argued the initiative is part of his government’s broader efforts to improve living conditions for Venezuela’s poor, amid the country’s worst economic downturn in at least two decades.
“We are building something new, for the protection and social security of all Venezuelans, without discrimination, without exclusions, including everyone,” he said.
New maternity program
Also on Thursday, Maduro said his government was preparing to roll out a new maternity program aimed at providing additional support to soon-to-be mothers. According to Maduro, the program is expected to aid as many as 4 million households with pregnancy support over the coming years.
The president explained that the program was the result of a door-to-door consultation, which found maternity support is a major concern for Venezuelan families. In its first month of operation, Maduro said the program will aim to assist 500,000 pregnant women.
“From the month of January, 500,000 pregnant women are going to have direct support,” he said.
“New stage” of Barrio Adentro
In a third announcement, Maduro also called on state governors and local governments to work with his administration to create a “new stage” of the Barrio Adentro program.
Founded in 2003, the joint program with Cuba provides preventive healthcare in poor neighbourhoods, and has been praised by the World Health Organisation and United Nations Children’s Fund. Maduro said the next stage of the program will focus on the distribution of basic medicine.
“There is tremendous work being done everyday by Venezuelan and Cuban doctors,” he said.