World News

Venezuelan military adopts Chavez socialism slogan

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s military has adopted President Hugo Chavez’s “Homeland, Socialism or Death” slogan as an official salute, a further sign of politicization of core institutions in the OPEC nation.

At the ex-army officer’s inauguration for a new term this year, Chavez coined the phrase -- a variation of a slogan used by his mentor, Cuban leader Fidel Castro -- and it has become a staple chant at his political rallies.

The communications department of the navy confirmed Friday that a communique had been distributed saying the phrase should enter “common usage,” particularly before addressing a superior officer.

The army could not immediately comment on whether it has also adopted the salute, which echoes Castro’s rallying cry “Homeland or Death, we shall overcome.”

Retired Gen. Alberto Muller Rojas, a close adviser to Chavez who supported his 1992 failed coup, told Venezuelan media he had already heard the salute in various military installations.

With open support from the military, judiciary and the state-run oil company, Chavez aims to drive Venezuela toward socialism and this year has nationalized vital sectors of the economy, pushing out major foreign investors.

Chavez purged the military of opponents after a brief coup ousted him in 2002 and has used the country’s oil income to build up arms and raise salaries in the ranks.

Muller Rojas brushed off concerns that constitutionally the military was meant to be a neutral institution.

“The armed forces have been politicized since the 20th century before Christ. They have always obeyed the political leanings of the government,” he was quoted as saying in El Universal daily.