- The Washington Times - Monday, May 7, 2007

BARQUISIMETO, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez announced last week that Venezuela hopes to gradually sell off its refineries in the United States and build a new network of refineries in Latin America as part of a plan to offer his allies in the region a stable oil supply.

Mr. Chavez also raised the idea of issuing a regional bond to raise money 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, as we did with Argentina, and bring in $1 billion,” said Mr. Chavez, addressing leaders April 29 on final day of their talks. The Venezuelan president said the money acquired would be put in a fund to provide credit for ALBA nations.

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

He said Venezuela will guarantee to supply 100 percent of the energy needs of ALBA members plus Haiti. ALBA was created in 2004 by Cuba and Venezuela as a counterproposal to U.S. backed free-trade plans.

Mr. Chavez said Venezuela eventually plans to help build a network of refineries in Nicaragua, Haiti, Ecuador, Bolivia and Dominica, and to refurbish Cuba’s Cienfuegos refinery, to provide a stable supply of oil — and the earnings it generates — to Latin American countries.

He noted that Venezuela’s Citgo Petroleum Corp. has seven refineries in the United States and said “part of our plans is to sell those refineries.”

Under special oil arrangements offered by Venezuela, ALBA member nations will be able to finance 50 percent of the bill for fuel through low-interest loans, and 25 percent of the total bill will go into a special “ALBA Fund” to support local projects using loans, he said.

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

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