Hugo Chavez's War On Breast Implants

Breast augmentation is big in Venezuela. But President Hugo Chávez disapproves, saying the practice isn't revolutionary. And why do you care, Mr. President?

According to the Times, Chávez criticized the surgery as a "monstrous thing" during a TV appearance this weekend. The surgery is popular in Venezuala — in a country of 28 million people, 30,000 to 40,000 women get it done annually. Chávez says this is because doctors "convince some women that if they don't have some big bosoms, they should feel bad." He added that the procedure "did not square well with his revolutionary priorities," and that when a woman wrote him asking for help paying for her implants, he turned her down.

It's no shock that plastic surgeons are mad about this — one said, "I don't think there should be any type of discrimination against these aesthetic procedures." Perhaps more surprising is the reaction of Venezuela's main opposition newspaper, which wrote in an editorial, "Now comes this antiquated, militaristic, coarse, repressive attitude on the freedom of women to do what they want with their bodies." The paper even compared Chávez to Qaddafi for his anti-surgery comments.

Chávez isn't the only one to draw attention to the pressures facing Venezuelan women — in 2009, one Venezuelan woman who'd had implants told The Age, "I think there's a social pressure in Venezuela, a beauty ideal that can be seen in contests like the one for Miss Universe. And seeing that, everyone wants to look the same." And a supplier of the implants said, "Venezuelan woman are among the most vain in the world. Beauty is considered a basic necessity." That may be true, but Venezuelan women aren't the only ones getting surgery there — according to The Age, the country leads the way in "scalpel tourism," because implants are thousands of dollars cheaper there than elsewhere. This, more than women's body image, may have Chávez worried — he probably doesn't want his Bolivarian Republic to be seen as a destination for capitalists seeking a little silicone. It's also true that he's supported Qaddafi recently, saying, "The United States is proposing a war over Libya because they want Libyan oil." But we're not sure the Libyan leader would be on his side in the implant debate — from everything we know about him, it seems like he likes boobs.

Chávez Tries To Rally Venezuela Against A New Enemy: Breast Lifts [NYT]