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World News

Hugo Chavez orders big minimum wage hike

CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela’s socialist President Hugo Chavez on Monday announced a big increase in minimum wages and pensions in an attempt to compensate for rising living costs ahead of next year’s presidential election.

Venezuela’s inflation rate is one of the highest in the world. Chavez has raised the minimum wage as much as a third in most recent years, but pay has not kept up with prices.

“For the 12th year running we are raising the minimum wage, which today is one of the highest in the continent,” Chavez said, adding that this year’s increase will be 25 percent.

Chavez will seek re-election in 2012 and has begun to increase government spending on the back of higher oil prices.

He later said the wage rise will be staggered, with a 15 percent increase in May followed by a 10 percent increase in September. That adds up to a 26.5 percent overall rise.

The minimum legal salary will reach $360 per month under the new rules and will be augmented by food coupons, Chavez said during a televised cabinet meeting.

He also highlighted a recent Gallup poll (link.reuters.com/xaq29r) that says Venezuelans report having one of the world's highest levels of "well-being."

Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Dan Wallis and Eric Walsh

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