May Day on the Campaign Trail: Venezuela’s Working Class Marches in Caracas

Announcing a 95% minimum wage increase, President Nicolas Maduro pledged to resolve the country's economic crisis if re-elected to a second term in upcoming May 20 elections. 

By Cira Pascual Marquina
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Thousands took to the streets of Caracas in commemoration of International Workers' Day and in support of President Nicolas Maduro
Thousands took to the streets of Caracas in commemoration of International Workers' Day and in support of President Nicolas Maduro. (AVN)

Caracas, May 2, 2018 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In May Day celebrations framed by the upcoming May 20 presidential elections, thousands of Chavista workers marched to El Calvario park near Miraflores Palace to hear declarations from President and incumbent candidate Nicolas Maduro.

Reminding the assembled crowd that on last year’s May Day he had called for the National Constituent Assembly that brought an end to four months of violent anti-government protests, Maduro promised that, if re-elected this year, he would defeat the economic war which he claims is the cause of the country’s current shortages and soaring inflation.

“Today, I say to you, trust me, and I will defeat the mafias and the economic war,” Maduro declared in an hour-long speech in which he also ratified his Monday decision to implement a 95% minimum wage increase together with important bonuses for some 10 million workers.

Maduro, who is a former public transport worker, celebrated the May Day march as an expression of the unity of the working class and its ongoing support of the Bolivarian Revolution.

“Long live the unity of workers!” he said. “Here in Caracas, cradle of the Revolution, the workers and the people are saying that the Revolution is here to stay for a long while.”

Reactions to Maduro’s speech were varied. Whereas many of those assembled in the audience emphasized the importance of continuing the Bolivarian Revolution and preserving its achievements in the face of imperialist interference, others were critical and questioning.

Leander Perez of the Trotskyist organization Lucha de Clases raised doubts about the coherence of the president’s campaign promise to solve the country’s economic problems.

“Someone who is not incumbent can say that,” Perez said, “but it is absurd that Maduro, who has been president for many years of deepening economic crisis, would say such a thing.”

Neirlay Andrade of the Communist Youth of Venezuela (JCV) told Venezuelanalysis that her organization “calls for the end of bonus‐based forms of worker remuneration, which devalue labor and favor the owner class,” referring to the government policy of supplementing wages devalued by inflation with food tickets as well as cash bonuses administered through the Homeland Card system.

She added that “salaries are not satisfying basic needs now, so we are demanding that free lunches return to schools to reduce dropouts, while we call for lunch programs to be installed in work centers.”

The Venezuelan opposition also used May Day to put forward its election pledges, with candidate Henri Falcon promising to dollarize the minimum salary at US$75 monthly.

For its part, the newly formed Frente Amplio Venezuela Libre (Free Venezuela Broad Front), which was formed in February to oppose the upcoming elections, concentrated in the affluent east of Caracas and offered discourses demanding the ouster of Maduro.