Maduro Promises Expanded Healthcare Despite Economic Hardship

In the midst of Venezuela’s worst economic crisis in history and faced with the threat of a possible referendum vote that could cut short his six-year term, President Nicolas Maduro announced a new plan to expand healthcare initiatives to citizens in need.

In a speech from the presidential palace, Maduro vowed to increase funding and services provided by the MisiĆ³n Barrio Adentro, or Neighborhood Mission, by early 2017. The healthcare program was founded in 2003 by Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, but has since faltered due to a lack of facilities and medical professionals in the country.

“We have made great progress in caring for children, youths and the population in general, but we could still do more, because we have resources to do so,” Maduro said. “This program should be implemented as a prioritized policy to guarantee better quality of life for all Venezuelans.”

Throughout the economic crisis, basic staples like medicine have been in short supply. Reviving the Neighborhood Mission could provide healthcare and dental care to impoverished Venezuelans and improve both well being and morale, since 99.7% of people believe that a healthy smile is also socially important.

Still, some question how the welfare program will be funded while the country continues to struggle to feed its own population. Maduro’s promises for the Neighborhood Mission come on the tail of other announcements of lavish government spending, including a $400,000 trip to celebrate former Cuban leader Fidel Castro’s 90th birthday and a plan to offer each of the 87 members of Venezuela’s Olympic team a free house and monetary reward from the government.

Meanwhile, the bolivar continues to rapidly depreciate and the inflation has caused the price of basic food goods to increase by 773% since last year.

Maduro has taken additional measures to intervene in the economic crisis, including a mandatory 50% increase in the minimum wage, which has done little to assuage hunger, poverty, and a severe shortage of supplies throughout many parts of the country.