BLACK GOLD

Oil Crunch Wrecks Chavez Budget

You know times are tough when Hugo Chavez is urging Venezuelans to "be more realistic." In a startling admission that his oil-fueled socialist revolution cannot sustain itself, Chavez announced major cutbacks to Venezuela's 2009 budget. The move is a surprising reversal for the president, who has thrown around money with reckless abandon in the last few years. Taxes will go up, senior public officials will face a substantial pay cut, and the budget will be reduced by nearly 7 percent overall, the BBC reports. The charismatic leader has hit several bumps in the revolutionary road lately, as his opposition has become more vocal in criticizing him for mismanaging the economy, cracking down on dissent, and failing to stop the raging violence in Caracas.