September 25, 2007 / 3:38 PM / 12 years ago

Leader rails at teen breast implants gift fad

CARACAS (Reuters) - President Hugo Chavez railed against a new trend in beauty-conscious Venezuela, giving girls breast implants for their 15th birthday.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is seen in Maturin September 17, 2007. Chavez railed against a new trend in beauty-conscious Venezuela, giving girls breast implants for their 15th birthday. REUTERS/Miraflores Palace/Handout/Files

“Now some people think, ‘My daughter’s turning 15, let’s give her breast enlargements.’ That’s horrible. It’s the ultimate degeneration,” Chavez said late on Sunday on his weekly TV show that lasted a record eight hours.

Venezuela is well known for its beauty queens, who have regularly won world crowns, and many women have plastic surgery in the oil-rich country where there is widespread spending on consumer items that would be considered luxuries elsewhere.

But Chavez, the anti-U.S., self-styled revolutionary who came to office in 1999, is seeking to change those attitudes to create what he calls the “new man” to build a socialist society in this South American nation.

Chavez complained about the new fad of giving the plastic surgery operation at 15 — when Latin Americans celebrate a girl’s coming-of-age — during a diatribe against what he says are Western-imposed consumerist icons such as Barbie dolls.

While breast implants are advertised on TV and banks offer special credit lines for such operations, if girls do get the enlargements they are not expected to become sexually active afterward.

Venezuelans’ have a habit of avid consumerism since the 1970s oil boom in the OPEC nation. They have won the nickname of the “Give-Me-Twos” in the tourist destination of Florida for buying double the amount of typical consumers.

Breast implants cost thousands of dollars in Venezuela.

Chavez’s answer? He has told his supporters to give away any extra goods they do not need, urging them to leave out in town squares items such as fans or refrigerators.

“I am calling on your conscience, fathers of this country, mothers of this country, they are our sons, they are our daughters,” Chavez said.

Still, Chavez, who happily describes himself as ugly, may struggle to change Venezuelans’ mind-set to spending on plastic surgery.

In elevators, at huge, jam-packed shopping malls, women can be overheard openly boasting about their recent, conspicuous operations.

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