The People’s Phone

Venezuela’s increasingly ridiculous strongman, Hugo Chavez, would be funny if not for the misery and repression he continues to impose upon his own citizens. From changing the name of the country — he inserted the word “Bolivarian” in front of “Republic of Venezuela” — to his weekly marathon TV rants, his self-aggrandizing antics border on the cartoonish. Now he wants to his government to dominate…the cell phone market. As the Guardian has reported:

It is perhaps the world’s cheapest mobile phone. It is the latest offering from Hugo Chavez’s socialist revolution. And its name is derived from a slang word for penis. Behold the Vergatorio.

Venezuela‘s president launched the handset on his TV show with a Mother’s Day call to his mum and predicted it would conquer all rivals. “This telephone will be the biggest seller not only in Venezuela but the world,” he said. “Whoever doesn’t have a Vergatario is nothing,” he joked.

Were this a true “Bolivarian” phone, it should turn on to blast Hugo’s marathon speeches automatically, and cut off calls critical of him. There may be even more such schemes to come. According to an Italian newspaper, this follows the “Bolivarian laptop” among Chavez’s bizarre ventures.

Still, it’s too early to dismiss this. After all, the People’s Car was a success. (Thanks to Dave Rohm for the tip.)