Mérida, May 5th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - On Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez inaugurated a new pharmaceutical production center in Caracas, allocated funding to build another similar one, inaugurated 118 new medical centers, and released the country's first locally manufactured mobile phone, bringing Venezuela a few steps closer to economic sovereignty.
The pharmaceutical production center was first created in 1993 but was abandoned and rendered unproductive due to lack of investments by previous governments, according to government press sources. The center has now been renovated and re-opened with 64 new staff.
"We are starting to make medicine of a high quality in a way that has never happened before in Venezuela," Chávez said on his weekly presidential talk show, Aló Presidente.
He said the new center will make a range of medicines including insulin, antibiotics, syrups and anti-retrovirals, and sell them at subsidized or production cost prices to Venezuelans and member countries of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), which is a trade bloc alternative to U.S.-dominated free trade agreements.
According to the Ministry of Health, the center will also distribute the medicine and be a storage place for expensive medicines which the ministry already distributes for free, such as the treatment for AIDS.
The factory will start producing in about 2 weeks, with primary material coming from India, China, Sweden and Germany.
Chavez also approved $40 million to be spent in 2009 and $43 million in 2010 to construct a pharmaceutical industrial complex which will be located on 20 hectares of land in Guacara, Carabobo state. The plant will produce insulin, creams, ointments, suppositories, therapeutic liquids, antibiotics, tablets, and capsules.
Health Minister Jesus Mantilla said the Carabobo-based medicine production complex will have the capacity to supply all the countries of ALBA.
"We're going to convert ourselves into exporters of medicine in the future. First, of course, for us, and later to share with other countries," Chavez said. He also estimated the insulin produced would benefit up to 52 million people.
These projects "aim to guarantee the right to health and life to the people, not only for those who can pay, as under capitalism where if you can pay you're guaranteed everything," Chávez said.
Also Sunday, Chavez expanded the Barrio Adentro Mission, a social program which builds free health care clinics in local communities with assistance from Cuban doctors who are experienced in community health, by inaugurating 110 new primary health clinics.
In addition to the primary health clinics, the government inaugurated five Integral Diagnostic Centers (CDI), which provide more advanced services such as emergency care, ultrasound, and endoscopy, and two Integral Rehabilitation Centers (SRI).
By satellite transmission, Chávez inaugurated an ophthalmology center that is equipped to perform eye operations such as cataracts and more complicated surgeries, and also allocated funding for seventeen public hospital renovation projects.
Including these new medical centers, Venezuela now has 4,565 in total, including 3,606 local consultation centers, 482 CDIs, 545 SRIs, and 23 High Technology Centers, according to government figures.
Venezuela Produces Cell Phones
Venezuela has also launched its first locally made mobile phone. The phone, a model ZTE C366 that includes camera and mp3 storage, will cost 30 bolivars ($14), which is 25% cheaper than the cheapest cell phone currently available in Venezuela.
The phone is made by the state-owned telecommunications company Vetelca, which is aiming to produce 250,000 phones this year for both the Venezuelan market and the Latin American market.
Chavez inspected the phone on Sunday's television show, and said it was "light, beautiful, good, and cheap, designed by Movilnet." Movilnet is the state telephone and internet company.
"It is science and technology at the service of the people not the elites...the day will arrive when we manufacture phones for Cuba and Latin America," he said.
According to the government's national radio station RNV, Movilnet sold 8 million phones last year and is expecting to sell 9 million this year.
The Chávez administration nationalized Movilnet in 2007. Chávez said he expects the government will recuperate the cost of the nationalization, that is, the compensation paid to the previous owner, within two years. He said that previously a large amount of the company's profits were going outside the country and the bank accounts of the national elites, but now these resources are financing projects for the Venezuelan people.
Published on May 5th 2009 at 11.43am
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