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Chavez proposes to expand oil alliance

From Business Week via DU:
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Thursday he is seeking to share his country's oil wealth with every nation in South America, aiming to strengthen ties while offering an alternative to the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the Americas.

Chavez says his "Petroamerica" initiative is intended to reach countries across the hemisphere, and that Venezuela has ample reserves to help the region deal with high oil prices for generations to come.

"With this mission of energy integration, Venezuela guarantees petroleum and gas for the South American continent for at least 200 years," Chavez said as he arrived for a South American summit in Brazil's capital of Brasilia.

...Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has said the regional energy alliances are aimed at challenging U.S. economic domination in the region and distributing fuel directly to avoid costly intermediaries.

The Venezuelan leader has been a harsh critic of capitalism and accused U.S.-backed free trade policies of helping American companies at the expense of Latin countries by drawing away their natural resources, while doing nothing to confront poverty.

Some have accused Chavez of taking advantage of a tight oil market to buy political alliances.

"Who doesn't do that? ... Venezuela uses its petroleum at critical moments," said Professor Mazhar al Shereidah, a Venezuelan oil expert and professor at Central University of Venezuela. "Why would it lose this opportunity?"
A few of the DUers are worried about Venezuela over-extending itself via preferential terms, the way the Soviets supposedly did, but so far Chavez seems to have proven himself to be pretty astute about these things.

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