Venezuela's Chavez threatens to halt oil exports to US

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, claiming that neighboring Bolivia is the victim of a US plot, has threatened to halt oil exports to the US and ordered its ambassador to leave his country.

Eric Watkins
Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Sept. 12 -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, claiming that neighboring Bolivia is the victim of a US plot, has threatened to halt oil exports to the US and ordered its ambassador to leave his country.

"The US is behind the plan against Bolivia, behind the terrorism," said Chavez to political supporters in his United Socialist Party of Venezuela. "We're committed to being free. Enough crap from you Yankees."

Chavez explained his decision as an expression of solidarity with Bolivian President Evo Morales who earlier expelled the American ambassador there, accusing him of supporting rebel groups in eastern Bolivia.

Chavez threatened to halt Venezuelan oil shipments to the US if it attacks his country. Venezuela is the fourth-biggest supplier of foreign crude oil to the US, exporting some 1.42 million b/d in 2007.

Chavez denunciation of Washington came as the US Treasury Department alleged that Venezuela's top two intelligence officials and the country's former Interior Minister have assisted narcotics trafficking by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

The spat is unlikely to cause a permanent split between the two countries, according to Jose Vicente Carrasquero, a professor of political science at the Universidad Simon Bolivar in Caracas.

Trade between the two countries is too great and Venezuela would have nowhere to put all the oil it sells the US so quickly, Carrasquero said.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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