Caracas, Venezuela, October 31, 2005—Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez announced that his government has decided to increase doctors’ salaries by 50%. This will affect about 30,000 doctors and other workers in the public medical sector. Also, there will be an additional bonus for doctors who currently work part-time at public hospitals and who decide to become full-time employees. The measure will be effective immediately. Chavez made the announcement during his weekly TV program Aló Presidente, where he also announced new resources for the university sector.
The Venezuelan government is currently experiencing a boom in revenues, due to both improved tax collection efforts and increasing oil revenues, due to the high price of oil. As a result, the government is focusing much of these increased resources on raising public sector salaries, many of which had been practically frozen for several years. The increase is, “just and necessary because professional public health salaries have fallen behind,” said Chavez.
Venezuela’s Minister of Health and Social Development, Francisco Armada, said this is a just measure, “because of the number of years that have passed without [salary] increases in the sector.” Later, in an interview, Armada explained that doctors have not received salary increases in five years.
The Vice-President Venezuela’s Medical Federation, Daniella Parra, which groups many public sector doctors in its ranks, attacked the announcement of the raise, saying that such a raise should be the result of a collective bargaining agreement and not of a presidential decree. the move is, "a demonstration of his attachment to totalitarianism and does not fulfill the expectations of the organization," said Parra.
Venezuela’s public hospitals have long suffered from lack of resources. The health care situation in Venezuela has mostly improved via the 20,000 Cuban community doctors that the government has placed in the country’s poorest communities, known as “Barrio Adentro” (Inside the Barrio). Recently, Chavez announced Barrio Adentro II, which involved the creation of new community clinics in the poorest neighborhoods, and Barrio Adentro III, which involves the re-equipping of existing large public hospitals.
Another sector that Chavez focused much attention on during his weekly television program on Sunday was the university system. The program was broadcast from a newly opened “Bolivarian” university in the city of Maturín. The university, known as UBV-Maturín, is equipped with the latest educational technology, such as video projectors and electronic black boards. The Bolivarian university system, which the Chavez government created two years ago, targets students from poor backgrounds who were not able to find a spot in the country’s old university system.
Bolivarian education, “connects the woman, the man, the student with the reality that surrounds us and thus allows the easy incorporation and participation of the citizen in the construction of a new society,” explained Chavez. UBV courses of study place a strong emphasis on gaining practical experience, with extended fieldwork projects and internships.
Chavez also mentioned how his government had increased spending on education from 2.8% of GDP to more than 7% of GDP.
Summit of the Americas in Argentina
With regard to the upcoming summit of North and South American leaders in Argentina, for the Summit of the Americas, to be held November 4 and 5, Chavez said, that he will counter-pose his vision of socialism of the 21st century to the neo-liberal vision the Bush administration is proposing.
The debate, “will be nice,” said Chavez. “It seems they [Bush and his supporters] want to revive the FTAA [Free Trade Area of the Americas]. The FTAA is dead! On should bury it! The people of this continent will bury it and a different model of integration will emerge,” he added.