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How they see us: Venezuela picks a fight over oil
Hugo Chavez says he won
H
ugo Chavez says he won’t be bullied, said Marianna Parraga in Caracas’ El Universal. The Venezuelan president announced this week that if ExxonMobil seizes Venezuelan assets, he will order a halt to all oil exports to the United States. His threat was a reaction to British and Dutch court rulings last week that froze $12 billion in Venezuelan assets to guarantee compensation to ExxonMobil. When Chavez nationalized the oil fields last summer, most international companies cut deals with the state. Exxon, though, chose to abandon its fields—worth at least $1.5 billion—and file suit against Venezuela. But Chavez says he will not be swayed by the “imperialist bandits, white-collar thieves, and corrupters of governments” that control Exxon. “If the economic war against Venezuela continues,” he warned, “oil prices will reach $200 per barrel, and other countries will join us in the economic war against the United States.”

If only that were true, said Teodoro Petkoff in the Caracas Tal Cual. Unfortunately, Venezuela has little clout with other countries right now. Even “our one relatively serious ally, Cuba,” has been distancing itself from us lately. It’s too bad, because for once, Chavez’s bombastic rhetoric against the U.S. is entirely appropriate. Exxon, the heir to the notorious Standard Oil Company, really is an evil corporation, its profits “soaked in blood.” Exxon refused to wait for the International Arbitration Commission to rule on the proper amount of compensation for its oil fields—it insisted on freezing Venezuelan assets worth nearly 10 times more than those fields. And it was able to browbeat British and Dutch courts into doing its bidding. Apparently, little has changed since the days when “a gringo president,” Teddy Roosevelt, sent gunboats to protect American oil interests. The only difference is, “now the Yankees use their puppet global financial institutions.” Chavez was right: “The U.S. is an empire. And it is striking back.”

What a fairy tale, said Armando Duran in Caracas’ El Nacional. There is no “evil conspiracy” against Venezuela. If you want someone to blame for the dire economic straits in which Venezuela suddenly finds itself, Chavez is hard to miss. It was his “rabid and impolitic” decision to nationalize the oil fields in the first place that plunged us into this mess. If he keeps on this track, soon he will “achieve his goal of transforming Venezuela—but into a desolate wasteland, not a Socialist utopia.” We should have seen this coming, said Robert Carmona-Borjas in Globovision.com. The “bankrupting of our oil industry” was set in motion more than five years ago, when Chavez, “in the most rude, illegal, and illegitimate way,” fired the top executives of the state oil company, Petr

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