Venezuela's Chavez seizes golf clubs in drive to defeat the 'bourgeoisie'

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Caracas (Venezuela), Oct.18 (ANI): Wealthy Venezuelans have often luxuriated in the vistas of the Caribbean from the terrace of the Caraballeda Golf Club, relaxing with a whisky before teeing off amid tropical palms, above a marina filled with gleaming yachts.

But this way of life is now under threat from their President Hugo Chavez, who derides the game as lazy, bourgeois and the antithesis of his Bolivarian Revolution.

Chavez launched his attack on the sport on his weekly TV show, Hello Mr. President, branding players selfish elitists who annexed acres of prime land while the poor suffered in slums.

"Golf is a bourgeois sport," he spat, citing the use of golf carts as evidence of the laziness of the "little Yankees," The Times quoted Chavez, as saying.Officials have moved to seize two of Venezuela's prime courses, at Caraballeda and Maracay.

However, the move has divided local supporters of the President, with many warning of a detrimental impact on surrounding communities.

Gian Carlos Pérez, the manager of the Caraballeda course, said the club had the support of the area's communal councils - set up by Chavez.

"They agree it should not be expropriated because it is a very important source of work and supports tourism," he told The Times.

The expropriations would bring to nine the number of courses closed in the past three years - part of a drive to eradicate activities deemed contrary to the principles of Chavez's socialist revolution.

Hotels and yacht and beach clubs have also been threatened with closure, while whisky drinking has been hit with increased taxes and limits on consumption at state functions.

After hosting a summit recently at the Hilton on Margarita Island, the President decided to seize the hotel - with its golf course, casino and marina - because the owners dared to "impose conditions" on its use by the revolutionary Government.

To many impoverished Venezuelans, the campaign against golf is a welcome assault on the legacies of elitism and American domination that accompanied the discovery of oil in the 1920s.

To others, it is an example of the economic damage that Chavez has wreaked as he pursues his revolutionary ideology. (ANI)

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