3rd August 2007 at 01:00
IT IS A brave man who stands up to firebrand Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (below). Nevertheless, private school heads in the South American country are none too pleased at his latest attack on the fee-paying sector.

Mr Chavez has taken the controversial step of freezing school fees for the coming year, despite inflation riding at 20 per cent. Some private schools have closed as a result of the hard-nosed strategy, which has seen fee rises capped at 10 per cent for the past two years.

Carlos Documet, the head of Antonio Jose de Sucre school in Los Teques, near Caracas, reports that renovations had been postponed and pupils were missing trips to the doctor as a result of the policy.

But ministers have indicated they won't budge. Adan Chavez, the president's brother and education minister, said there was "no justification" for the increases.

It is an unsurprising move from the left-wing president who rose to power on the shoulders of the slum-dwelling poor. The government claims it is protecting consumers, but headteachers argue that Mr Chavez, a passionate believer in free education, is attempting to squeeze out the private sector.

Private educators will try to annul the policy at the Supreme Justice Tribunal, the nation's highest court.

Mr Chavez has imposed similar price caps on milk and meat in an attempt to curb runaway inflation.

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