Sun, Nov 11, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Chavez invites Brazil to join Latin American oil club

AP , SANTIAGO

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, left, jokes with his Peruvian counterpart, Alan Garcia, right, as Bolivian President Evo Morales, front right, and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe sit nearby at the Ibero-American Summit in Santiago, Chile, on Friday.

PHOTO: AFP

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez invited Brazil to become part of his "Petroamericas" initiative, which aims to strengthen a regional energy alliance on the back of surging world oil prices.

The initiative is seen as a rival to the US economic influence, and it would integrate previous oil projects Petrosur, Petrocaribe and Petroandina, under which Venezuela agreed to sell fuel to other countries in the region on preferential terms.

Chavez has said that the energy alliances will challenge US domination in the region and distribute fuel directly in order to avoid costly intermediaries.

Speaking at the Ibero-American Summit for leaders from Latin American, Spain and Portugal, Chavez said on Friday that the initiative is moving forward -- and he invited Brazil to participate as an oil provider.

Addressing Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose country on Thursday announced a huge oil find, Chavez said, "We propose a Petroandina with Andean nations, and you, Lula, now that you have so much oil, you can have a Patroamazonia."

Brazil's new offshore oil discovery and promising nearby fields could help Brazil join the ranks of the world's major exporters, although full-scale extraction is unlikely until 2013 and will be very expensive.

Chavez has made ambitious regional proposals in the past for the creation of a regional bank and a regional television news network and the construction of a natural gas pipeline stretching across South America that would be one of the longest gas pipelines ever built.

The Caracas, Venezuela-based Telesur TV network is a reality, but the Bank of the South and Petroamericas are still barely past the planning stages.

In addition, the project for a pipeline to carry gas from Venezuela's offshore reserves through Brazil to Argentina, with branches extending to Bolivia, Paraguay and Uruguay has not moved forward.

Chilean President Michelle Bachelet urged her peers to make sure the summit will produce concrete results, including approval of a region-wide social security accord that would allow migrant workers in Latin America, Spain and Portugal the transfer of social security benefits between their nations, a measure that would benefit nearly 6 million workers.

On the sidelines of the summit, Colombian President Alvaro Uribe talked with Chavez about the Venezuelan leader's mediation effort to secure the release of hostages held by Colombia's largest rebel group.

Chavez said that both the Colombian government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia ``maintain their positions.''

"But we are trying to find formulas, variations for a solution," Chavez said. "We must play with flexibility."

He did not elaborate.

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