In Venezuela, five years of severance pay now buys a coffee

When Yolanda Abreu got her check for severance pay after five years working as a cardiologist, she let out a laugh of sheer disbelief: it was barely enough for a cup of coffee.

Like her, millions of Venezuelans have seen their salaries decimated by rampant hyperinflation that is expected to drive prices up by 13,000 percent this year, IMF figures show.

Her story hit the headlines after she tweeted a photo of the check for 156,584.29 bolivars, which equates to about $0.20 on the black market.

“They called me from Caracas University Hospital to come and collect my check for benefits accrued over five years of service as a level 2 specialist in cardiology and electrophysiology,” she wrote on Twitter.

And what will it buy, she wondered indignantly. “A coffee?”

If she had received the check when she resigned in January 2017, it would have been worth $45.

But her severance pay was decimated by the country’s chronic hyperinflation and the accelerated collapse of the bolivar.

Within a week, her indignant outburst had been retweeted 11,000 times, and commented on more than 1,400 times, with many relating similar stories or empathizing: “Friend, they robbed you blind.”

“I never thought it would have such an impact. I wrote it because the check was so ridiculous that it made me laugh, and suddenly you find so many people who feel like you that all your work, your effort is just disregarded,” she told AFP.

– ‘Hopeless cause’ –

On the eve of International Workers Day, Venezuela’s embattled President Nicolas Maduro moved to double the monthly minimum wage, raising it by 95.4 percent to 2,555,500 bolivars — or $37 (30 euros), according to the central bank’s official DICOM rate.

But access to such a favorable rate is very limited for Venezuelan citizens and companies, meaning they have to use the black market where the same sum is worth just $3.20 — just about enough for two kilos (4.4 pounds) of chicken.

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