Venezuela will have no problems finding buyers for its oil if President Hugo Chavez halts exports to the United States if U.S. aggression against his country takes place, Venezuela's oil minister said Monday.
Rafael Ramirez said Chavez's efforts to forge new commercial agreements with energy-thirsty European nations and populous countries like China and India are helping Venezuela to expand markets for its heavy crude.
Ramirez said new trade partners could purchase Venezuela's oil if Chavez's government were to halt oil exports to the United States in retaliation for any type of aggression by George W. Bush's administration.
"We have a hungry market for oil. We have demand that doesn't stop with large consumers, like India and China," said Ramirez, who also serves as the president of Venezuela's state-run oil company.
"We don't see any problems" in finding new customers, Ramirez added.
In recent weeks Chavez, a fierce critic of alleged U.S. hegemony in world affairs, has threatened to cut off oil exports to the United States if conspirators proceed with a purported U.S.-backed plot to kill him.
U.S. State Department officials have denied any such plot exists.
Venezuela has announced plans to ship oil to Asia through a pipeline along the Panama Canal, but industry analysts say China and India lack sufficient refining capacity to process Venezuela's heavy crude oil.
Ramirez, however, said demand for Venezuela's heavy crude is growing amid strong oil demand.
"In Europe they have been selling heavy crudes, and this type of oil is not normally sold there," said Ramirez. "We don't see problems with this."
Oil supplies to the United States have remained stable despite rising diplomatic tensions between Caracas and Washington over the past few months.
Chavez has repeatedly accused the Bush administration of trying to destabilize his "revolutionary" government, arguing that Washington played key roles in a short-lived 2002 coup and a devastating two-month strike in 2003 that failed to produce his resignation as organizers had hoped.
U.S. officials have denied the allegations.
Officials in Washington have expressed growing concern over Chavez's increasingly close ties to Cuban President Fidel Castro and warned the former paratroop commander threatens stability in Latin America.