Venezuela boosts minimum wage by 50 percent

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro during a television programme in Caracas on January 8, 2017 (AFP Photo/) (Presidencia de Venezuela/AFP/File)

Caracas (AFP) - Embattled President Nicolas Maduro on Sunday raised the minimum wage by 50 percent in Venezuela, a country with astronomical inflation.

Maduro said he was raising the minimum wage to 40 bolivars, about 60 dollars at the highest official exchange rate, or $12 on the black market.

"To get the year started, I have decided to raise the minimum wage," the president sad on his weekly show on state television.

The wage comes with an additional food bonus of about 93 dollars, which did not change.

Venezuela grapples with the world's highest inflation rate -- set to hit 475 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund.

As the Latin American country flounders through a devastating economic crisis, inflation has gutted the value of the bolivar.

Venezuela has been rocked by low prices for its key export, oil.

Now in its third year of a deep recession, it is facing severe shortages of food, medicine and basic household goods.

Maduro blames the crisis on a "capitalist conspiracy" backed by the United States.

His opponents say it was caused by the failure of 18 years of leftist policies under Maduro and Chavez.

Nearly 80 percent of Venezuelans disapprove of Maduro's leadership, according to a recent survey by polling firm Datanalisis.