All 5,000 of Venezuela's first locally produced mobile phones were scooped up by shoppers on the first day, the state-run telephone company said Sunday.
The low-cost model, El Vergatario, has been endorsed by President Hugo Chavez as Venezuela's cheapest cellphone. The phone, which features a radio, camera and MP3 player, sells for $13.95, an attractive price in a country where the minimum pay is about $445 a month.
Jacqueline Farias, president of Movilnet, a subsidiary of the CANTV telephone company, said the first 5,000 phones went on sale Saturday in the capital, Caracas, and were quickly sold out. She said another 5,000 would be available this week.
The maker, Vetelca, which is a joint Venezuelan-Chinese venture, aims to produce one million of the phones within several years, Farias said. The parts are manufactured in China, then assembled in Venezuela.
"We want a cellular phone that is better than those we buy abroad," she said.
Chavez applauded the new phone Sunday, saying it would help Venezuela reduce its dependence on imported technology.
"We'll supply the domestic market first to limit imports and later - even before meeting demand in the domestic market - we must develop an exportation plan," he said during his weekly television and radio program. "Within a couple years, we'll be exporting a good-quality phone at a low cost."
Chavez, a socialist who has forged strong ties with China since his first election in 1999, said he expects the phone to become "the best selling phone in Venezuela." He used one to call his mother during Sunday's program.
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