Venezuela and China to launch satellite in 2008

Venezuela has finalized a deal to buy a satellite from China that is to guarantee the South American nation autonomy in telecommunications.The two governments were set to sign the deal on Tuesday, officials said. The satellite will be launched in 2008 from China, which will oversee its construction and its placement into orbit with the participation of Venezuela personnel, the Ministry of Science and Technology said in a statement.

President Hugo Chavez's government says the "Simon Bolivar Satellite", named after the South American independence hero who inspires Chavez's socialist "revolution", will make Venezuela self-sufficient in telecommunications.

It said satellite coverage in remote areas will bring telephone and Internet access and also allow the government to transmit educational programs and other information to populations that have been virtually cut off from communication, the AP reports.

Venezuela stretches across 912,050 square kilometers (352,142 square miles), including vast stretches of rainforest and plains that have been largely undeveloped.

Venezuela has said previously that the satellite is intended for peaceful purposes and could help in the early detection of natural disasters, such as floods. In 1999, catastrophic floods and mudslides along Venezuela's Caribbean coast left between 6,000 and 10,000 dead, according to government estimates. A.M.

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