Chavez hikes Venezuela's minimum wage before vote

CARACAS - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez hiked the country's minimum wage by almost a third on Saturday as the ailing socialist leader aimed to solidify his political base among the poor and win re-election in October.
Chavez is flying back and forth for cancer treatment in Cuba, fueling doubts about his future and removing himself from the daily political debate as his rival, state Governor Henrique Capriles, pushes ahead with a national campaign tour.
But the 57-year-old president has managed to maintain a strong lead over the opposition candidate in most recent opinion polls, based on his enduring emotional connection with Venezuela's poor majority - and heavy state spending.
"In the 1980s and 90s, the minimum wage was basically frozen, then inflation went through the roof ... we've been working on this for several weeks," Chavez said, unveiling the pay hike during a televised cabinet meeting hours before leaving for Havana and a third round of radiation therapy.
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