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Chavez says Venezuela will meet all of energy needs of leftist allies

Chavez says Venezuela will meet all of energy needs of leftist allies

President Hugo Chavez said Venezuela is ready to become the sole energy supplier to Cuba, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Haiti, presenting the countries with his most generous offer yet of oil-funded diplomacy in the region.
Chavez is seeking deals with the four countries, his main leftist allies in the region, during the summit of The Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas he hosted over the weekend in the northwestern city of Barquisimeto.
The bloc, known as ALBA, was formed in 2004 by Chavez and his Cuban mentor Fidel Castro to promote trade and cooperation along socialist lines and to oppose a U.S.-backed free trade area.
On Sunday, Chavez said Castro remains a presence in the trade group even though health problems forced him to temporarily cede the presidency in July.
"He is in charge. The great helmsman of ALBA is Fidel," he said.
Although Chavez said he could not confirm statements by Bolivia's Evo Morales that Castro would return to power May 1, Chavez said Castro is doing much better.
"We are privileged to learn of his clear improvement, of his extraordinary mental state," Chavez said.
Bolivia and Nicaragua are now members of ALBA and Ecuador has also expressed interest. Haiti was attending the two-day summit that started Saturday as an observer.
"The time has come for this oil, this energy, these resources to in some way serve the development and happiness of our people and the union of our territories," Chavez said Saturday. Venezuela is a major oil exporter with vast reserves.
"I've come here to propose to the member countries of ALBA _ and in that we are already including Haiti _ that Venezuela guarantee ... the supply of all your energy needs," said Chavez. "One-hundred percent."
Under the proposal, Venezuela was ready to finance up to 50 percent of the total oil bill and would also create a matching fund to finance agricultural projects, food production and small-to-medium size industries, Chavez said.
It was not immediately clear if Venezuela could follow through on its pledge. Venezuela sends most of its oil exports to the United States, where it receives top dollar, and diverting them elsewhere would come at a cost. Furthermore, there are few refineries outside of the U.S. capable of processing Venezuela's heavy crude into usable products.
Chavez promised that further details would be forthcoming, but said the ALBA proposal would be more generous than a previous accord with 14 Caribbean nations that accepts partial payment for oil in goods like bananas and nutmeg. That accord is worth US$1.6 billion (euro1.17 billion) a year and allows countries to pay 60 percent up front and the remainder as a 25-year loan with a 1 percent interest rate.
Chavez also said Cuba was interested in joining the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. Foreign companies are helping Cuba to explore offshore oil deposits.
"Cuba is going to OPEC, there's a good chance," he said with a grin.
The ALBA alliance has evolved into a symbol of Chavez's petrodollar-based clout in the region, using millions of dollars (euros) in aid to vie with U.S. interests in some of the region's poorest countries.


Updated : 2021-04-15 08:25 GMT+08:00