CARACAS – The president of Venezuela’s Civic-Military Front on Monday welcomed the decision by President Hugo Chavez to increase military pay by 40 percent.
“Justice is being done with the military personnel,” who to date were one of the sectors with “the lowest salaries,” Lt. Col. Hector Herrera told Union Radio in Caracas.
He recalled that Chavez had announced in recent months pay hikes for teachers, doctors and nurses, among others, in addition to the phased-in 25 percent rise in the minimum wage.
With this increase, the minimum wage in Venezuela – starting in September – will be 1,229 bolivars ($283.72) a month.
Chavez announced on Sunday on his weekly radio and television program the pay raise for “all ranks” in the armed forces retroactive to April 1 and gave as an example “a recently-commissioned lieutenant” who now will make “a salary of almost 2,500 bolivars ($581.30)” a month.
Venezuela closed last year with a cumulative 25.1 percent inflation rate, somewhat below the 30.9 percent registered the year before.
Raul Salazar, a former defense minister in governments before Chavez came to power, told Union Radio that soldiers “have not been given a raise in four years” and that “although making these improvements was being studied,” recent criticism by Gen. Antonio Rivero could have spurred the administration to act.
Rivero, who resigned his commission in March, spoke out last week about the “salary lag.”
The general, who was praised by both supporters and opponents of the Chavez government for his work as director of civil defense, also criticized the growing role of Cuban advisers in planning and organizational tasks for the military.
Without mentioning Rivero by name, Chavez referred Sunday to a “sad” general who had adopted “the enemy discourse” of the alleged “Cubanization” of Venezuela.
Chavez, a democratically elected self-proclaimed socialist, is Cuba’s closest ally, supplying the communist island with Venezuelan oil on generous terms. EFE