The socialist government of Venezuela is not known for Swiss-like efficiency or discipline. But when President Nicolas Maduro promised to deliver public housing unit No. 1,000,000 on his weekly television program last night, he upped the ante a bit.

"I'll make a bet," he said. "If we don't deliver 1 million homes by December 31, I'll cut off my moustache."

Now this is no ordinary moustache. The lustrous, jet-black, Selleck-esque strip crowded onto the president's upper lip is easily the most recognizable feature of a man who has struggled mightily in the shadow of the late leader Hugo Chavez.

Maduro's facial hair is a big part of his Joe-Plumber blue-collar image. He often touts his former career as a bus driver and union leader in his effort to identify with Venezuela's poor. Grainy photos of him purportedly playing bass guitar in a rock band in the early 1980s show a hirsute young Maduro with a droopy Fu Manchu on his face.

As a showman and president of Venezuela, Maduro has struggled with poor ratings, and polls indicate that his United Socialist Party is headed for a political haircut in Dec. 6 parliamentary elections, which threaten to deal the biggest blow to the country's ruling party since Chavez was elected in 1998.

Providing housing for Venezuela's poor — many of whom live in precariously built shacks in the hilly capital, Caracas — was a signature part of Chavez's socialist agenda. In 2011, the government has set a goal of 3 million units by 2019, but as of mid-October it had delivered fewer than 750,000 homes.

Those numbers do not bode well for the current president's moustache, nor his political fortunes. Venezuela's oil-export-dependent government in a deep financial crisis, with inflation running at 200 percent and the economy projected to contract 10 percent in 2015, according to IMF figures.

Still, Maduro turned to his wife, Cilia Flores, also a politician, in the middle of last night's "Contact with Maduro" program, and asked whether she would mind seeing him shorn. Flores gave her approval.

"I say to you, brother and sister construction workers and engineers: work hard so I don't have to cut off my moustache," Maduro said. "No, that's not it. That's a joke. Work hard so our people can have a home."

Venezuelan satirical Web sites have already given Maduro a shave with Photoshop, joking that the country's finances are so depleted that he's had to sell his whiskers on Wall Street.