Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez Rallies Against Breast Surgery


President Hugo Chavez has long spoke out against 'imported' luxuries such as golf and Scotch whisky. Now, he's directed his attention towards another luxury popular in his country: breast augmentation surgery.

Breast augmentation is especially popular among contestants entering the Miss Venezuela pageant. Now, Dr. Peter Romer, a plastic surgeon who has operated on many of them, has become Chavez's latest target. Last weekend, Mr. Chavez spoke on state TV against doctors who "convince some women that if they don’t have some big bosoms, they should feel bad."

Chavez's comments come as Venezuela is emerging as one of the world's most popular places for plastic surgery. Every year, between 30,000 and 40,000 women undergo the procedure, says the Venezuelan Society of Plastic Surgeons. In Caracas, billboards advertise the availability of financing for surgery. The country's most popular gossip blogs speculate about the surgical enhancements undergone by Miss Venezuela contestants. Last year, one of the country's political candidates tried to finance his run by raffling off breast lift surgery.

On state television, Mr. Chavez lamented about the vast sums spent on cosmetic surgery. There have also been reports of surgical mistakes, including the death of one 20-year-old patient in Caracas following breast augmention surgery.

Chavez's comments spurred debate and swift reactions from plastic surgeons. Dr. Ramón Zapata Sirvent, a leading plastic surgeon in Venezuela, said "I don’t think there should be any type of discrimination against these aesthetic procedures." Opposition newspaper El Nacional said “Now comes this antiquated, militaristic, coarse, repressive attitude on the freedom of women to do what they want with their bodies."

According to the president, breast augmentation does not align with his priorities for the country. The state newspaper Correo del Orinoco agreed with the president, lamenting that plastic surgery was “as common as dentist appointments and it is not unusual for wealthy parents to proudly buy their 15-year-old daughters breast implants for ‘coming of age’ birthday presents.”

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