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Apr 30, 3:24 PM EDT

Venezuela's Maduro hikes minimum wage amid rising protests

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CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) -- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro is hiking salaries and handing out free homes as he tries to counter a strengthening protest movement calling for his removal.

Maduro said on his Sunday TV show that the minimum wage will rise 60 percent starting May 1. Workers will earn at least 200,000 bolivars per month including food subsidies, or less than $50 at the black market exchange rate.

It's the third wage increase this year as triple-digit inflation erodes workers' savings.

The president also watched as authorities in several states handed over the keys to hundreds of new apartments.

Nearly 30 people have died in April from violence related to protests demanding the departure of Maduro, who critics say has violated democratic norms. Maduro accused his opponents of conspiring to overthrow him.

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