Chavez threatens to cut off oil to US
Hugo Chavez threatens to cut oil to the US at the same time that he makes it available at a subsidized rate to low-income US consumers. Capitol Hill Republicans go apoplectic that a developing country could stand up to Uncle Sam while making shrewd overtures to the working people of the United States. Sometimes Chavez really seems to have his eye on the ball, even if we don't like his bluster about building nuclear power plants. From AP, Feb. 27:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has warned he could cut off oil exports to the United States if Washington goes "over the line" in what he has said are attempts to destabilize his left-leaning government.
Chavez made his threat Friday, a day after U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said the Venezuelan government posed "one of the biggest problems" in the region and that its ties to Cuba were "particularly dangerous" to democracy in Latin America.
"The government of the United States should know that if they go over the line, they are not going to have Venezuelan oil," Chavez said.
"I have already taken measures regarding this. I'm not going to say what because they think that I can't take these measures because we would not have any place to send the oil," Chavez said.
Chavez has threatened to halt oil exports to U.S. ports before, but Friday was the first time the former paratroop commander mentioned having made contacts with other crude buyers as part of a contingency plan.
"Many countries ask us for more oil and we have had to tell many countries we can't send them more" because Venezuela, the world's fifth largest oil exporter, ships 1.5 million barrels of oil a day to the United States, he told supporters at the presidential palace.
Relations between Chavez and the Bush administration hit new lows in recent days after Washington expelled a Venezuelan diplomat in response to Chavez's expulsion of a U.S. embassy official for alleged spying.
Venezuela on Friday also demanded an explanation from Washington for being labeled one of Latin America's biggest threats as a visiting State Department delegation aimed to ease tensions between the governments.
Chavez has repeatedly accused the U.S. government of trying to discredit his government and orchestrate his ouster. American officials deny those charges but accuse him of authoritarian tendencies.
Chavez, who refers to President Bush as "Mr. Danger," said U.S. officials would fail in their attempts to turn Latin American nations against Venezuela.
"You create your front Mr. Danger, we will create ours," Chavez said. "We are going to defeat the empire."
Chavez said Rice's statements were aimed at creating chaos and political upheaval in this oil-rich yet poor South American nation ahead of presidential elections in December.
Chavez, who was elected to a six-year term in 2000, has vowed to win the next election and govern until 2013 -- or longer.
We just love this one. As if US foreign aid was never "part of a larger political agenda." From Reuters, Feb. 27:
Venezuela's controversial fuel subsidies for the U.S. poor expanded into Connecticut on Monday, two weeks after U.S. Republican lawmakers questioned whether the cheap oil masked a broader anti-American agenda.
The assistance, described as "humanitarian aid" by Venezuela's embassy in Washington, deepens an ongoing spat between leftist President Hugo Chavez and President George W. Bush, who calls Chavez a threat to democracy in Latin America.
Venezuela, where per capita income is about one tenth that of the United States, will provide 4.8 million gallons of heating oil at a 40 percent discount to Connecticut households that qualify for state home heat assistance, state officials said.
"This heating oil assistance fills an unfortunate, profoundly important need for our citizens -- and is consistent with our laws," said Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal in a statement released on one of the coldest days of the winter in the Northeast United States.
Connecticut is the seventh state to receive cheap oil from Venezuela, which also sent shipments to Massachusetts, Maine, Rhode Island, Delaware, Pennsylvania and Vermont. The Bronx in New York City also joined the program.
Citgo estimates that it will be distributing some 44.5 million gallons of discounted heating oil and giving another 258,000 gallons free to homeless shelters.
Blumenthal said about 15,000 low-income Connecticut citizens would benefit from the deal with Citgo, a refiner and gasoline retailer owned by Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
The exports are seen as an attempt by Chavez to embarrass the Bush administration, which the Venezuelan leader says neglects poor Americans.
Flush with cash from soaring oil prices, Chavez has used his nation's petroleum wealth to secure closer ties with South American neighbors while taunting Washington by pushing his socialist ideas as an alternative to U.S. influence.
Venezuela supplies about 15 percent of U.S. oil imports.
In a backlash against the fuel program, one Texas-based religious organization has promoted a boycott of Citgo to protest Chavez's confrontation with the U.S. government.
Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, has expressed concern over whether the sales are "part of an unfriendly government's increasingly belligerent and hostile foreign policy" toward Washington.
Rep. Ed Whitfield, a Republican from Kentucky, has said he wanted to find out if the program was "part of a larger political agenda."
See our last post on Venezuela.