Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened Saturday to halt oil exports to the United States and said opponents of his leftist government are not welcome within the military or the state-run oil company.
Also on Saturday, tens of thousands of supporters of Manuel Rosales, Chavez’s main challenger in Dec. 3 presidential elections, staged a 16-mile march through the capital, Caracas. More than 1,000 police were deployed along the route to prevent clashes between Rosales supporters and “Chavistas” who gathered on street corners.
The opposition has accused Chavez’s administration of political coercion after Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez was caught on videotape threatening to fire employees of state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, who oppose Chavez.
“If they try to destabilize PDVSA, if the empire and its lackeys in Venezuela attempt another coup, ignore the outcome of the elections or cause election or oil-related upheaval, we won’t send another drop of oil to the United States,” Chavez said in a speech to PDVSA workers in the coastal city of Puerto La Cruz, 150 miles east of Caracas.
Chavez – a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro – said President Bush “had better tie down his crazies here in Venezuela” to prevent a possible end to petroleum exports.
Venezuela supplied 12 percent of U.S. crude oil imports last year, and the U.S. remains the top buyer of Venezuelan oil.
Activists urge climate action
About 20,000 environmental activists protested in central London on Saturday, demanding the government take urgent action against climate change.
Some demonstrators slowly rode bicycles on prominent streets to hinder traffic in the day of protests.
The Stop Climate Chaos Coalition, which organized the demonstrations, said the protests were timed to coincide with the second meeting of Kyoto Protocol countries – who have agreed to cap greenhouse gas emissions and stave off global warming. The meeting will be held in Nairobi, Kenya, Monday through Nov. 17.
At a rally in London’s Trafalgar Square, about 4,000 activists demanded the British government negotiate an international agreement to stop global warming and introduce a new climate change bill to cut the country’s carbon dioxide emissions.
Kuwait City, Kuwait
Explosion closes small oil refinery
An explosion rocked Kuwait’s smallest oil refinery on Saturday, sparking a fire that temporarily closed the plant, the Kuwait National Petroleum Company said. No injuries were reported.
Investigators were looking into the cause of the blast at the Shuaiba installation south of Kuwait city, but terrorism was not suspected, said Mohammad al-Ajami, a company spokesman.
More than 800 people were evacuated, and the fire burned for three hours before firefighters extinguished it, he said.
Shuaiba is the smallest of Kuwait’s three oil refineries, with a capacity of 200,000 barrels per day.