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Venezuelan President Chavez: “I Won’t Wear James Bond Suits”

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Mérida, March 27, 2009 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- On Wednesday Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez criticized members of his own administration as he signed the Presidential Decree to eliminate superfluous spending, one of the measures announced last Saturday as part of combating the effects of the financial crisis, which has seen the price of oil, Venezuela’s main export, drop.

Speaking to pro-government governors and mayors, Chavez criticized a “culture of extravagance” in the government and certain institutions such as PDVSA (the state owned oil company) and in Miraflores (the presidential palace), something that he said that needs to be eliminated.

He said the culture in Miraflores had been of lavish and constant parties. “That’s the old culture, lets struggle against it without rest, against the roots of extravagance and irresponsible spending of money that is not ours. It’s the people’s! Right up to the last Bolivar should go towards helping to solve the many problems of social debt that the last neoliberal capitalist government left us.”

“All these birthday parties…with bouquets of flowers and everything aren’t necessary. We can organize a simple card and that is enough.”

As part of this old culture, Chavez recounted how people had commented that he wears the same outfit in summer and winter and that he wears this suit, that is already out of fashion, to Europe, “and then I saw some suits that …looked like James Bond… you think I’m going to put this on one day?”

Another example of excess he gave was of a recommendation he had received to purchase some limousines. The recommendation gave reasons of security, saying that they were the only vehicles which can withstand bomb attacks. “Well, the solution is, don’t go where there are bombs,” he joked

Chavez described a cavalcade that PDVSA had once hired for one of his visits, of “4 or 5 vehicles” as part of the “old vices…and they paid private companies for this with the people’s money.”

The Venezuelan president said his own salary was 2,800BsF ($US 1300) per month, half of which he said goes to his ex-wife according to divorce law, and the other half goes towards a fund for poor children.

With his 3 months bonus, he said he wanted to pay his taxes, even though his wage is not high enough to be required to, “and they told me I don’t need to pay taxes, but I said, no I want to pay taxes.” He also said he wanted to pay taxes on his military pension even though he was told he can’t, “I want to set an example.”

“Provide an example, revise your expenses, as I’m going to revise mine,” Chavez said to the governors and mayors. He said he hoped that they were as demanding or more demanding than him when it came to cutting expenses and he encouraged them to make their own decrees.

The decree Chavez signed applies to all entities of the national public administration. Various expenses, including the purchase or use of phones and cars, international travel, hiring of specialized services like engineers and architects, the renovation of headquarters and official residences, purchasing of promotional material that doesn’t correspond to the organization and “lavish celebrations” will need approval from the executive vice-president.

It also orders the setting or adjusting of wage limits for workers at high levels in the public administration and prohibits bonuses.

“We have to get rid of these mega-salaries, mega-bonuses” he said, “Those who want to become rich, go somewhere else,” Chavez said.

Yesterday the national assembly approved in its first discussion, some changes to the national budget, which Chavez had announced in a nationally televised broadcast on Saturday afternoon.

The government will also raise taxes, increase internal debt, cut unnecessary government spending, and keep social spending intact in its effort to endure the global financial crisis.

Published on Mar 28th 2009 at 11.13am