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'Venezuela Isn't a Threat to the U.S.' By Ambassador Bernardo ?lvarez

The Wall Street Journal
May 5, 2007; Page A7

I wish to correct your suggestion that the Venezuelan government's purchase of oil reserves along the Orinoco River is an affront to U.S. energy interests ("How Ch?vez Aims to Weaken U.S.1," Leading the News, May 1).

It is important to note that our state-owned oil company PDVSA, created in 1976, hasn't moved toward full nationalization of the Orinoco Belt reserves but rather a model of shared ownership. PDVSA's purchase of a 60% stake in the reserves doesn't expel private capital, and private companies are being compensated for any purchase.

Certainly, revenues from oil are increasingly directed toward development in other sectors, such as human capacity building through social programs in health and education. This reflects the current administration's concern with undoing past injustices by reducing poverty. In no way have these policies prevented PDVSA from making the kinds of long-term investments in oil production and exploration that will ensure its continued viability. To do so would be foolish, considering the company is crucial to our own development.

Toward this end, PDVSA has set aside $60 billion for investment in these areas over the next six years.

As your article alludes, increased trade between China and Venezuela is indeed a strategic response to the need to diversify our economic exchange and pursue partnerships with strong markets wherever they exist. The U.S. has pursued this relationship with China as well. Venezuela's interest, however, comes from our commitment to economic integration, particularly among Latin American markets, as initiatives like the Bank of the South demonstrate as well as fairer negotiations with other global powers, including the U.S. Rather than recoiling from the international financial scene, Venezuela is consolidating its recent economic gains and fiscal responsibility, as is evident from our recent repayment of loans to the World Bank and the IMF.

Venezuela isn't a threat to the U.S., nor does it seek to "weaken" the country with which it still conducts the majority of its economic exchange. If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, the U.S. should take increased trade between Venezuela and China as a compliment.

Bernardo ?lvarez
Ambassador of Venezuela to the U.S.

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