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Maduro's huge salary increases force 40% percent of Venezuelan stores to close

Nearly 40 percent of all Venezuelan stores have closed —some of them perhaps permanently —after the government of President Nicolas Maduro increased the minimum salary by nearly 3,500 percent in one fell swoop, according the National Council of Commerce and Services of Venezuela. .................... ........... ........................... ............................... ......................

Many of the companies, which had been barely surviving the gradual collapse of the economy, saw the salary increase and other changes announced last month as the fatal blow in a series of policies that have been gradually strangling their businesses. ............... .................... ...................... ................... ....................... ........................ .................... ...........

"These decisions are leading many business people to say, 'No, I can't do it any more,'" said Maria Carolina Uzcategui, president of the council. ............... .................... ...................... ................... ....................... ........................ .................... ...........

The problem is that Venezuelan companies are being forced to sell at prices far below cost just as employee salaries are increasing 60 times, Uzcategui said. ............... .................... ...................... ................... ....................... ........................ .................... ...........

What's more, the regime has banned stores from increasing their prices to cover the salary increases, arguing that it is not necessary. ............... .................... ...................... ................... ....................... ........................ .................... ...........

If they do increase prices, store owners or managers can end up in prison, Uzcategui said. ............... .................... ...................... ................... ....................... ........................ .................... ...........

"We have inspections, and they force us to sell at last month's prices," she said. "That takes money away from the business because of the hyperinflation, when you can't even sell at yesterday's prices because you lose money." ............... .................... ...................... ................... ....................... ........................ .................... ...........

"And anyone who protests against these measures runs the risk of going to jail, without the right to appeal, without the right to anything, simply because the official whose turn it was to inspect the store just felt like arresting you. He did it, and that's all," she said.