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Tue, May 01, 2007 - Page 10 News List

Venezuela to sell off US refineries

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY Hugo Chavez wants to build a network across Latin America that will fully service the energy needs of all member states of a leftist bloc

AP , BARQUISIMETO, VENEZUELA

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Venezuela hopes to gradually sell off its refineries in the US and build a new network of refineries in Latin America as part of his plan to offer allies in the region a stable oil supply.

Chavez also raised the idea of issuing a regional bond to raise funds for social spending as he hosted a summit of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas (ALBA), a leftist bloc and trade group that includes Venezuela, Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

"I proposed that we issue an ALBA bond. I hope that we can do it ... And that we issue it here in Venezuela, like we did with Argentina, and bring in US$1 billion,'' Chavez said, addressing leaders on Sunday on final day of their talks. Chavez said the money acquired would be put in a fund to provide credit for ALBA countries.

Chavez and other leaders signed accords for Venezuela to supply fuel under preferential terms and join up with other countries for cooperative projects in education, telecommunications, mining and other areas.

Chavez said Venezuela will guarantee to supply 100 percent of the energy needs for ALBA members as well as Haiti.

ALBA was created in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela as a counterproposal to US backed free-trade plans.

Chavez said Venezuela eventually plans to help build a network of refineries in Nicaragua, Haiti, Ecuador, Bolivia and the Dominica, as well as refurbishing Cuba's Cienfuegos refinery, to provide a stable supply of oil -- and the earnings it generates -- to countries in Latin America.

He noted that Venezuela's Citgo Petroleum Corp has seven refineries in the US and said that "part of our plans is to sell those refineries."

Under special oil deals offered by Venezuela, ALBA member states would be able to finance 50 percent of the bill for fuel under low-interest loans and 25 percent of the total bill would go into a special "ALBA Fund" to support local projects through loans, he said.

Leaders also discussed creating an "economic cooperation and investment fund," and Chavez offered a contribution of US$250 million.

Among long-term plans, Chavez proposed to build a petrochemical complex and natural gas plant in Haiti.

Leaders attending included Haitian President Rene Preval, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega, Bolivian President Evo Morales and Cuban Vice President Carlos Lage, plus officials from Uruguay, Ecuador, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Morales raised bitter complaints about the International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), a World Bank body that mediates disputes between governments and foreign investors.

"Governments in Latin America and I think all over the world never win the cases. The transnationals always win," Morales said.

Chavez backed Morales' stance, saying he had never heard of ICSID but that Latin American countries could create their own arbitration body for disputes.

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