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Posts Tagged ‘Chavez’

Venezuelans can now buy cell phones for the equivalent of just US $13.95, thanks to a new state-run company that put its first 5,000 units on the market yesterday in Caracas.

Eager shoppers snapped up the first bunch, and the AP reports that another 5,000 will be in stores soon.

The tiny phone, dubbed “El Vergatario,” is equipped with a camera, radio, and mp3 player.

The firm that makes them, a joint venture by the governments of Venezuela and China, is known as Vetelca. This is not an isolated effort, but rather, part of a broader plan to promote affordable technology (you may recall the “Bolivarian Computer,” and the adoption of open-source Linux operating systems).

“El Vergatario” is only sold on the domestic market right now, but depending on its success, it could eventually become an export. And because it is literally the cheapest cell phone in the world, it is likely to be quite competitive.

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The “Metrocable” that is set to revolutionize transportation in crowded Caracas will open next month. It will reportedly travel 1.8 kilometers through the following neighborhoods: Parque Central, Hornos de Cal, La Ceiba, El Manguito y San Agustín.

What’s so cool about the Metrocable, you ask? For one, it whisks travelers overland through the clouds to reduce traffic congestion and pollution. It also helps reduce travel time to work for low-income residents in the city’s peripheral areas.

A Reuters article yesterday suggested that this project is well-liked in San Agustín. It prompted one resident to call Hugo Chavez “the only president who has really worked for the poor.” This sentiment is reflected in the statistics: a recent UN study shows poverty has dropped by 16.5% in the last five years.

And while the Venezuelan leader has been known to tout those numbers, he stressed earlier this year that the newest government-funded transportation project was designed for the good of all citizens:

None of the projects promoted by the Venezuelan government does [have political colors]; they will benefit all Venezuelans.

The technology and materials used to build the Metrocable were purchased from Austria and Brazil. The project may have been inspired by an existing aerial transportation system in Medellin, Colombia. Investments total $149 million, and it should create 200 direct jobs and 250 more indirect ones. It will carry 1,500 people an hour for a total of 15,000 commuters every day. See more pictures of the construction phase here.

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Bolivia’s President Evo Morales announced today that Bolivia will soon begin building recycled “petrocasas” with the help of Venezuela. These low-cost plastic dwellings are built with waste generated by oil refining, and are providing a solution to economic and environmental pressures. Tens of thousands have already been erected in Venezuela as well as Cuba and Peru. It was in Peru where Morales first saw the petrocasas and the role they played in the country’s recovery after a 2007 earthquake.

With an investment of $80 million, Bolivia will open a factory to produce petrocasas in Oruro. The first recipients will reportedly be the relatives of the victims of Bolivia’s “gas wars” of 2003. The eco-friendly houses will go up in low income areas, including El Alto and Trinidad. The project was announced at an event commemorating the 228th anniversary of the first uprising against the Spanish colonists.

See our last post on petrocasas here. For coverage in Spanish, see Reuters.

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The wildly popular Mexican norteño band Los Tigres del Norte has a new song about Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez called “Corrido de un Hombre Valiente” (The Song of a Brave Man).

The song is a corrido, a traditional a Mexican musical style often used to recount the stories of legendary figures and heroes. Chávez’s corrido tells of his struggle to defeat corruption and alleviate the suffering of the Venezuelan people. Los Tigres applaud the Bolivarian movement, singing:  “the elderly and the children have education and health.”

They call President Chávez “a great example and a great man,” and express hope that other countries in Latin America will follow his example.

Click here to listen. Article in Spanish.

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Venezuela has sent 80 tons of humanitarian aid to the people of Gaza, including 12.5 tons of medicine. “It is the least we can do,” President Chavez said.

Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro added that Venezuelan shipment also come with “the Simón Bolívar Humanitarian Task Force and 30 Venezuelan doctors, who will bring life and love to Palestinian people.”

Venezuela has had strong ties with the Arab world since the formation of OPEC in the 1960s.

Read more from the AP and Agencia Bolivariana de Noticias

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Ozzie Guillen is tired of the sour tone of U.S.-Venezuela relations in recent years.

Speaking from his home in Caracas, the Chicago White Sox manager weighed in on the financial crisis and the effect it may have on baseball. He said that “teams will have to look for alternatives, work with lower salaries.”

Guillen also expressed hope that President-elect Obama and Venezuela’s Chavez will strengthen relations. The AP reports that he added, “I’m not asking them to be great friends, but at least that they shake hands.”

After all, trade between the U.S. and Venezuela rose by about 50 percent in 2008.

Hopefully Santa Claus was listening.

Guillen is in Caracas to give Christmas gifts to children with cancer through his Oswaldo Guillen Foundation. Next year, he hopes to do the same thing in Chicago.

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Representatives from 33 countries throughout Latin America and the Caribbean just finished meeting in Brazil. By all accounts, the atmosphere was convivial.

Believe it or not, this “Rio Group” summit marked first time that such a large regional event has occurred without the presence of the United States. So what does this mean for the hemisphere? It depends on who you ask.

The AP reports that President Lula da Silva of Brazil said:

In the middle of an unprecedented global crisis, our countries are discovering that they aren’t part of the problem,” Mr. da Silva said. “They can and should be fundamental players in the solution […]

There was a time when our friend Chavez was all alone. Who would have imagined 10 years ago our beloved Evo Morales as president? Would would have thought that a liberation theology bishop could become Paraguay’s president?

President Chavez said:

The important thing is that we are here together, without the patronage of the empire. The way is beginning, a new way – our way from the South.

And of course, Michael Shifter of the Inter-American Dialogue in Washington had this commentary to add:

This is a healthy development and should not be seen as a rejection of the U.S. On the contrary, Latin America wants to deal with the U.S. and other major world powers, but it wants to do so on more equal terms than in the past.

Read more about the Latin American summit from the AFP and the New York Times, and use the comments section to tell us what you think about the events.

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