Tue, Dec 16, 2008 - Page 7 News List

Venezuela could renew US anti-drug efforts: Chavez

AFP , CARACAS

Venezuela could again collaborate with the US in anti-drug operations after US president-elect Barack Obama is inaugurated, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday.

Venezuela halted cooperation with the US Drug Enforcement Administration in 2006, accusing it of being a front for spying.

“We can remake an agreement with the DEA that respects the sovereignty of Venezuela ... but always within the framework of respect,” Chavez said in an interview with the privately owned Televen network.

The Venezuelan president, who in 2006 called US President George W. Bush “the devil” at the UN, said that he was “willing to work with the new government of the United States.”

Ties between the two countries “are going to improve” with Obama in office, Chavez said. “I feel that there are winds of change.”

Chavez also said he was open to receiving envoys from Washington to discuss other issues, including energy, “the struggle against terrorism and international crime.”

The leftist Chavez has tense relations with the US: Venezuela expelled the US ambassador to Caracas in September, and Washington responded in kind.

Yet the US remains the largest customer for Venezuela’s oil, the country’s most important export.

According to US government figures, Venezuela is the fourth largest supplier of crude oil to the US after Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

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