Venezuelans protest against U.S. sanctions

By Tehran Times:


Chavez condemns U.S. sanctions against Venezuela for Iran trade


CARACAS (Agencies) – President Hugo Chavez mocked U.S. concerns about Venezuela’s ties with Iran on Tuesday, joking that while his adversaries worry about Iranian-made missiles lining his country’s coast his government is actually erecting windmills there.

According to AP, the popular leader at first said missiles could be launched at Washington and other U.S. cities, then held up a photograph of windmills along the South American country’s coast, saying “here they are.”

“They are pointing directly at Washington,” Chavez joked during a meeting with top government officials that was broadcast on state television.

On Sunday, thousands of Venezuelans jammed into a plaza to protest U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company, the latest in a series of demonstrations.

Chavez supporters waving Venezuelan flags and chanting, “The people, united, will never be defeated!” marched from several points throughout the capital and converged on a downtown plaza where they listened to officials condemn the sanctions against Petroleos de Venezuela SA, known as PDVSA.

“Nobody messes with Venezuela,” Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez told the crowd. “Venezuela must be respected.”

Ramirez has said shipments of heavy crude to PDVSA’s U.S.-based subsidiaries will continue, but the company cannot guarantee shipments to nonaffiliated private oil companies.

Chavez — an outspoken critic of Washington’s foreign policy — has previously poked fun at fears over Venezuela’s increasingly close relationship with Iran, saying that in a joint bicycle factory the two countries are building the “atomic bicycle.”

Chavez also condemned U.S. sanctions against Venezuela’s state oil company for doing business with Iran.

President Barack Obama’s administration slapped sanctions on PDVSA and six other companies from other countries for doing business with Iran that helps fund its nuclear program. The State Department said PDVSA delivered at least two cargoes of refined petroleum products worth about $50 million to Iran between December and March.

Chavez has staunchly defended Iran’s nuclear energy program, saying it is for peaceful uses only.

Under the sanctions announced last week, Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, will be barred from any U.S. government contracts, U.S. import-export financing, and export licenses for sensitive technology. But PDVSA will not be banned from selling oil to the United States or dealing with its U.S. subsidiaries.

Chavez said his government is preparing contingency plans to confront the possibility of more severe sanctions.

He did not provide any details of the contingency plans, but Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez has hinted that PDVSA could seek to accelerate initiatives aimed at diversifying PDVSA’s clientele, exporting more crude to China and other countries to reduce Venezuela’s dependence on the United States.

Photo: Venezuelans take part in a protest in support of state oil company PDVSA after U.S. sanctions against the company in Caracas on May 29, 2011. (Reuters photo)

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