VENEZUELA (AP) Venezuela said Monday it will spend $3 billion on economic aid for Venezuela’s rural communities, a move that could boost the country’s cash flow as it struggles with an economic crisis and spiraling food prices.
Venezuela’s president, Nicolás Maduro, said in a statement that the country would spend $2 billion on food, medicine, water, electricity and social programs over the next three years.
The announcement came amid rising inflation in the OPEC nation, and a sharp fall in foreign exchange, which has helped fuel the collapse of oil prices.
“The Venezuelan people have suffered for the last two years from the economic and social crisis,” Maduro said in the statement.
“The economy has been hit hard.
The inflation rate has soared, and unemployment has risen.
It is a tragedy for the Venezuelan people, and I want to express my gratitude for the support of the Venezuelan public.”
Venezuelans living in rural areas are particularly vulnerable to shortages of food and medicine, which have worsened since the country was plunged into a violent civil war that left more than 100,000 dead in the past five years.
Many Venezuelans have lost jobs and access to healthcare, with some saying the government has done little to help.
Vladimir Tumarkin, an economist with Venezuela’s National Electoral Council, said the aid would help ease the economic pain and provide jobs for farmers and urban residents.
Verena Torres, a 30-year-old mother of two, said she would like to buy food, but she does not have the money.
She said her family of six will need $30 to buy a kilo of flour or $10 for a bag of flour.
“We don’t have enough money, but we can make some food,” Torres said in an interview with Al Jazeera.
The country’s inflation has soared to a record 3,600 percent in 2016, making it the world’s second-highest, according to the World Bank.
The economic situation has worsened because of a collapse in oil prices that helped fuel Venezuela’s recession, according the United Nations.
The currency’s value has also fallen as Venezuelans are spending less.
The Venezuelan government said the country will not spend money to import food from the United States and Europe, which account for roughly $5 billion of its $7 billion annual aid budget.
Vicente Almendras, a member of the countrys Congress, said he is confident that Venezuela will be able to repay its loans and meet its international commitments.
“I’m optimistic about this,” Almendra said in Lima, Peru.