New car sales in Venezuela doubled in July from a year earlier for the second consecutive month, maintaining a strong recovery driven by a rebound in the country's oil-reliant economy, the Venezuelan Automobile Chamber reportedly said.

According to a Reuters report, 11,256 cars were sold last month, up almost 101% from 5,608 units in July 2003 after June sales had increased 108% from a year ago.

Sales for the seven months through July reportedly rose nearly 95% to 63,997 units from 32,854 for the same period in 2003.

President Hugo Chavez's government, facing an August 15 referendum on his rule, points to strong in car sales as one sign Venezuela is pulling out of an economic slump largely triggered by fierce political conflict, Reuters said.

The news agency noted that a short-lived coup against the left-wing leader in April 2002 and a two-month opposition general strike during December the same year through January 2003 disrupted oil exports and badly hit overall growth and consumption, including car sales which were also crimped last year after the government implemented strict currency controls.

But in the first quarter of 2004, the economy of the world's No. 5 oil exporter grew 29.8% from the same 2003 period, according to the Central Bank, Reuters said.

This year, local vehicle manufacturers expect to sell 100,000 units, a 50% increase over last year, the news agency said, noting that, in 2001, 124,633 units were sold.

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