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article imageVenezuela's Maduro vows 40% pay hike to soothe unrest

By AFP     Oct 27, 2016 in World

Venezuela's President Nicolas Maduro on Thursday promised workers a 40 percent rise in the minimum wage, after opponents seeking to drive him from power called for a general strike.

"I decree and will sign a 40 percent overall rise in workers' legal minimum wage," he said in a public speech, a day after the opposition staged mass street demonstrations against him.

The socialist leader is resisting growing pressure from the opposition MUD coalition, which blames him for Venezuela's plunge into economic chaos.

Opposition leaders have sharpened their tone after authorities infuriated them last week by halting procedures to hold a referendum on removing Maduro.

The MUD called a 12-hour general strike for Friday and vowed to march in protest to the presidential palace next week.

Maduro's number two Diosdado Cabello warned that any business that shuts for a general strike could be taken "by the workers, and by the Armed Forces."

Speaking on Thursday at a ceremony to inaugurate a social housing project, Maduro added a gesture of appeasement with the wage proposal.

It was unclear to what extent the move would soothe popular anger in Venezuela, where citizens are suffering shortages of food, medicine and basic supplies.

Maduro earlier this year tweaked the state-controlled exchange rate in a bid to make essential imports less expensive.

But various ordinary citizens interviewed by AFP in recent days complained that many basic items in supermarkets remain too expensive to buy.

Venezuela is home to the world's largest oil reserves but has plunged into a deep recession due to falling crude prices.

Clashes broke out at some of Wednesday's protests, which drew hundreds of thousands of people.

The government said a police officer was killed in the northern state of Miranda.

Three people were shot in the northwestern city of Maracaibo, said Alfredo Romero, head of Venezuelan rights group Foro Penal.

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