In mid-November, the illegitimate Nicolás Maduro regime increased service members’ salaries to cushion the impact of hyperinflation, news portals El Pitazo (Venezuela) and Infobae (Argentina) reported.
According to Vice Admiral (ret.) Jesús Briceño García, former commander of the Venezuelan Navy and external advisor to the National Assembly Defense Commission, a major general would earn $17 per month, while a sergeant major, with equal seniority, would earn a maximum of $14.
The new pay grade establishes a basic salary of 2.7 million bolivars for a recently graduated lieutenant or ensign. That sum equals about $5. The monthly income for these junior officers might rise to $7.50 if they earn seniority and professionalization premiums. In the case of lieutenant colonels or navy commanders, the highest income they can aspire to is equivalent to $13.80.
Compensation for service members remains negligible in a country where the price of the basic food basket to feed a family of four is around $270 per month.
Luis Manuel Esculpi, a former National Assembly representative and military analyst at the Venezuelan foundation Open Space (Espacio Abierto), an organization that promotes cultural development and political education, said that these raises did not meet service members’ expectations, resulting in an increase in requests for discharge, and even desertions in some cases.
He recalled that, in previous years, the Bolivarian National Armed Force (FANB, in Spanish) was an attractive option for people in the lower classes, as it provided some professionalization, and service members enjoyed benefits such as good food, top-quality hospital services, and access to loans to purchase homes, vehicles, and electrical appliances.
“In the past, officers had amenities, such as dining areas and garrison houses. Now, the food is very bad, when there is any. This is affecting the retention of lieutenants and captains, and it’s depleted the number of personnel,” he said.
According to Esculpi, given the insufficient salaries and the de facto elimination of the previously mentioned benefits, unit leaders have had to be lenient in the face of certain conducts that were prohibited in the barracks.
“You can see sergeants who are taxi drivers in their spare time. And something new is that officers’ wives now go to sell cakes, hallacas [Venezuelan tamales], and hams, to make ends meet. And they are getting access to the barracks,” he said.
According to Vice Adm. Briceño, this was the fifth raise for the FANB in 2020.
The difference between the salaries of service members and the rest of public employees is notorious. According to Douglas León Natera, president of the Medical Federation of Venezuela, a medical professional with 20 years of experience earns no more than $5 per month. And doctors and other hospital personnel have been the most exposed to infection and death during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Vice Adm. Briceño García warned that this is part of a “political strategy” with the purpose of “sowing hatred from civil society toward everything military.”
“This is the regime’s strategy to destroy the institution. But the reality is that those in the Armed Force have as bad a time as any member of civil society,” he said.