Top State Dept. officials tag Venezuela 'unreliable' oil supplier

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Fri Feb 28 06:22:31 MST 2003

Note that this comes after the end of the strike, the defeat of the
opposition for the time being, and the advance of the recovery process in
the industry, which  the announcement is clearly intended to sabotage.  But
it is also a preparatory step to the imposition of an embargo on U.S.
purchases of Venezuelan oil, cancellation of contracts, and pressure on
other countries to follow suit. Washington is preparing to pay the price of
switching purchases to other countries ( such as Angola and, they hope,U.S.
occupied  and privatized  oil fields in Iraq) in order to fight the
Venezuelan revolution.
Fred Feldman

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Top State Department officials told a delegation of
Venezuelans Wednesday that political disruptions have created serious doubts
about the country's reliability as an oil supplier, an administration
official said.

They called on the Venezuelan government and the opposition to negotiate a
settlement to their differences, said Charles Barclay, spokesman for the
State Department's Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

The officials passed the message to Energy and Mines Minister Rafael Ramirez
and the president of the Venezuelan state oil company, Ali Rodriguez.

The Venezuelan delegation was told that the way for the country to restore
its reputation as a reliable oil supplier is for the government and the
opposition to reach agreement on a ``constitutional, democratic, peaceful
and electoral solution,'' Barclay said.

The U.S. officials also urged that the parties work with Organization of
American States Secretary General Cesar Gaviria, who has tried in vain to
promote a settlement.

Wednesday's meeting occurred three days after Chavez assailed Gaviria for
speaking out about the detention of a strike leader, saying his comments
were ``totally out of place.''

He also criticized State Department spokesman Richard Boucher for saying
last week that Washington was concerned that the detention could hinder
peace talks.

``Gentlemen of Washington ... we don't meddle in your internal affairs,''
Chavez said. ``Why does a spokesman have to come out and say they are
worried? No, that is Venezuela's business.''

Venezuela has been a leading source of U.S. oil imports, accounting last
year for about 1.5 million barrels a day. Most analysts place part of the
blame for the low supplies of crude and petroleum products in the United
States on the loss of Venezuelan oil imports.

A general strike that was called in December as a protest against Chavez
paralyzed the oil industry for a time and devastated the national economy.
Oil production has recovered somewhat in recent weeks but is still well
below normal.

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