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Chavez threatens to freeze oil supplies to EU

Latest update : 2008-06-20

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has threatened to stop selling oil to the European Union, after the EU Parliament adopted controversial rules to clamp down on illegal immigration.(Report: O.Salaza-Winspear)

CARACAS, June 19 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo
Chavez threatened on Thursday to stop selling oil to European
countries if they apply a new ruling on illegal immigrants that
is heavily criticized in Latin America and by human rights

European Union lawmakers ruled on Wednesday that illegal
immigrants can be detained for up to 18 months and face a
reentry ban of up to five years.

"We can't just stand by with our arms crossed," Chavez said
at an event to celebrate his OPEC country's oil supplies to
South America attended by Paraguay's visiting president-elect,
who also criticized the law.

"Venezuelan oil will not go to the countries that apply
this shameful directive. I'll say it now, Venezuelan oil will
not go," Chavez said.

The socialist ally of Cuba also threatened to expel
investments made by such countries, warning he would draw up a
list of their business in the OPEC member nation.

"We are ready to do this now," he said. "Here in Venezuela
at least, they won't be missed."

Chavez has already nationalized several foreign companies
in Venezuela, turning them into joint ventures controlled by
the state.

He called on other leaders in the region to take action
against the law. Millions of Latin Americans live in Europe,
many from poor Andean countries and war-weary Colombia.

For centuries colonized by European nations, Latin America
also received waves of European immigrants after the major wars
and economic crises of the 20th century.

Chavez has regularly issued conditional threats to halt
crude shipments from Venezuela -- one of the world's largest
exporters of oil -- although he has never followed through on a
move that would hurt supplies at a time of record prices.

Such threats from Chavez, a price hawk, have sometimes
caused world oil values to rise.

On Thursday, U.S. crude closed nearly $5 a barrel lower
after China announced hikes in fuel prices that could dampen
demand in the growing energy guzzler.

Typically, Chavez, who clashes regularly with the Bush
administration, threatens to stop shipping oil to the United
States, even though it is by far Venezuela's biggest customer.

While he has had periodic tensions with individual European
countries, Chavez generally has better relations with Europe
than the United States.

His comments on Thursday followed a mending of ties with
Spain, one of the main European investors in Venezuela, after a
spat last year where the Spanish king told Chavez to "shut

Chavez has sought in recent years to diversify the
country's oil customers, selling oil to Europe and,
increasingly, to China.

The president also wants to lead a South American alliance
to unite the continent.

Oil-endowed Venezuela sends few immigrants to Europe but
the tough talk supports allies such as Bolivia and Ecuador, who
have many thousands of citizens living in countries such as

Bolivian President Evo Morales on Wednesday said the
European law was "racist."

"We, too, could say that we are going to expel those who
have looted and stolen from us, those who imposed policies of
hunger and misery, those who exported illness, exploitation,
discrimination," Morales, an Aymara Indian," said.

Date created : 2008-06-20