Venezuela Initiates Production of Generic Medicines and Cell Phones

On
Sunday, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez inaugurated a new pharmaceutical
production center in Caracas, allocated funding to build another similar one,
inaugurated 11o new medical centers, and released the country's first locally
manufactured mobile phone, bringing Venezuela a few steps closer to economic
sovereignty.
By Tamara Pearson – Venezuelanalysis.com

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President Hugo Chavez in the new pharmaceutical production center on Sunday (Prensa Presidencial)
President Hugo Chavez in the new pharmaceutical production center on Sunday (Prensa Presidencial)
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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.

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