French President's Taste for Bling Begins to Sting

French President's Taste for Bling Begins to Sting
Nicolas Sarkozy and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy
HADJ/SIPA

updated 03/11/2009 at 08:00 AM EDT

originally published 03/11/2009 10:00AM

Most people return from a Mexican vacation with photos, a sombrero and a sunburn. But France's luxury-loving President Nicolas Sarkozy and his wife, former model Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, have come home to face a political headache.

Their vacation nightmare began March 5, when the couple, unannounced, slipped away from Paris three days early for a one-day state trip to Mexico. Their secret destination: a beachfront villa at the El Tamarindo Beach and Golf Resort outside Manzanillo, complete with private pool, Jacuzzi, a butler, cook and a maid.

Britain's Daily Telegraph tracked the couple down and calculated the cost of their tropical idyll – $3,000 a night, plus an additional $60,000 for security.

And that doesn't even count round-the-clock naval protection and helicopter transport, provided by the Mexican government.

Enough Already!

Back home, French taxpayers shouted ça suffit – enough already! After all, the pair had already been to Brazil for Christmas and skiing in the Alps (with 20 taxpayer-provided bodyguards) for Valentine's Day.

Sarkozy (nickname: President Bling-Bling) was clearly embarrassed. His office claimed the Mexican vacation was not disclosed "for security reasons," adding that the couple stayed at the villa at the invitation of Mexican president Felipe Calderón.

"When one is invited," the president's office sniffed, "one doesn't ask how much it costs."

Not having it, politician Marielle de Sarnez, citing a "time of international crisis" and France’s 2 million unemployed, blasted "the glaring gap between the president and the people: he is not aware of the state of the country nor what the French are going through."

Touché!

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