Chavez beefs up commitment to open source for Venezuela

Venezuelan independence doesn't stop with oil, Chavez says. Freeing the South American country from dependence on American software is also a priority.

At the Latin America Free Software Installation Fair, held recently in Caracas, the word was all about "technology independence," AP reports. The Venezuelan technology ministry said the fair is part Venezuela's move toward "technological sovereignty, and taking advantage of knowledge for building national scientific independence."

Chavez, a vehement critic of the capitalist system, issued a decree in 2004 ordering all the country's public institutions to actively move toward open-source alternatives, hoping to save millions of dollars.

Government agencies have gradually been making the change.

Chavez says previous governments spent more on licensing fees for proprietary software than social programs to fight poverty.

The Venezuelan government hasn't focused direct criticism on Microsoft, but Chavez has regularly condemned "the hegemony of the multinationals" — saying many big companies are to blame for putting profits above the needs of poor people across Latin America.