Chavez gives Venezuelan troops 40 pct pay rise

* Army gets big pay rises to offset high inflation

* Economic problems affect Chavez ratings ahead of vote

* Retired general complains of Cuban influence in army

By Frank Jack Daniel

CARACAS, April 25 (BestGrowthStock) – Venezuela’s President Hugo
Chavez on Sunday ordered a 40 percent pay rise for the armed
forces, an increase that may help consolidate his support with
troops by countering inflation ahead of legislative elections.

Chavez said the pay rise would bring a cadet’s salary to
2,500 bolivars ($543). The former soldier has ramped up
military spending during his 11 years in power, buying billions
of dollars of mainly Russian and Chinese made arms to replace
aging equipment.

“I will always be alert so that we do not fall behind,” he
said, making reference to a recently announced pay rise for
doctors. “So that you can do your jobs and live with dignity
with your families.”

Surrounded by British-made Scorpion light tanks, Chavez
spoke on his weekly television show broadcast on Sunday from a
new tank division base accompanied by the military high command
and a group of female cadets.

Himself a former tank soldier, Chavez said all ranks would
be eligible for the increase.

In recent years Chavez’s socialist government has ordered
some of the world’s largest hikes to minimum wages and public
workers’ salaries, helping offset the highest inflation the
hemisphere that was 25 percent in 2009 and will likely be
higher this year.

Chavez has lost popularity in recent months because of
electricity and water shortages and a long recession.

Opposition politicians are expected to weaken Chavez’s huge
majority in the national assembly in legislative elections in
September. The opposition has almost no seats right now after
boycotting the last elections five years ago.

“Soldiers do not participate in political parties, but they
are not apolitical, no man is apolitical,” said Chavez, whose
government granted the armed forces the right to vote.

A military coup in 2002 ousted Chavez for 48 hours, but he was
brought back to power by loyal officers and popular protests. The
socialist Chavez has since begun to reorganize the military with
the help of Cuban advisers, adding a heavy ideological component
to their training.

This week a former general said he had retired because Cuban
military advisers had too much power in the armed forces. Chavez
said the Cubans were just advisors and did not have the power that
U.S. officials had over the armed forces in previous governments.

In a live link up on Sunday’s program, Chavez talked with a
Chinese diplomat on another part of Venezuela who was
inaugurating a simulator to train pilots for a fleet of Chinese
K-8 jets.
(Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel, editing by Anthony Boadle)

Chavez gives Venezuelan troops 40 pct pay rise