Mexico President Gives Soldiers Pay Hike

The Associated Press
Monday, February 19, 2007; 7:20 PM

MEXICO CITY -- Soldiers waging a nationwide offensive against drug traffickers will get a pay hike of nearly 50 percent this year in a bid to insulate them from corruption, Mexican President Felipe Calderon announced Monday.

The increase is the latest move by Calderon to deal with corruption in Mexican law enforcement ranks, where drug traffickers routinely buy off low-paid officers to protect their smuggling routes.

Since taking power in December, Calderon has sent more than 24,000 soldiers and federal police to areas ravaged by drug violence, including Acapulco, Tijuana and the western state of Michoacan. Calderon has also extradited four cartel kingpins to the United States.

Calderon said that rank-and-file troops who earned $319 a month will now take home $474. The increase is retroactive to Jan. 1.

"I am giving special recognition to their courageous participation in the war that will free us from those who have threatened citizens' security and peace and those who are determined to poison the body and soul of our children and youth," the president said during a ceremony honoring troops. Calderon did not say how much the raise would cost the government.

Calderon has also slashed top government salaries _ including his own _ by 10 percent, but excluded law enforcement authorities and soldiers from those cuts.

The president also said Monday that soldiers will be allowed to participate in a special housing credit program.

© 2007 The Associated Press