August 9, 2007
MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay --
Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chávez took a campaign of petrodollar diplomacy to Uruguay on Wednesday, offering energy aid and stronger political ties.
Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and Chávez discussed ways to help Uruguay expand its lone oil refinery and to guarantee access to Venezuela's continent-leading oil and gas reserves. Uruguay, a nation of 3.5 million, enjoys both sweetheart terms for Venezuelan crude and warm ties with Washington.
But efforts to sell more beef and textiles to the United States, its biggest trading partner, have been complicated by Uruguayan membership in the leading South American trade bloc, Mercosur.
MAKING THE ROUNDS
On a four-nation tour, Chávez plans to make similar pitches for a ''grand South American alliance'' to Ecuador and Bolivia later this week, spreading energy and financial deals that leverage Venezuela's vast oil and natural gas reserves. On Tuesday in Argentina, he announced Venezuela will buy $1 billion in bonds this year, half immediately.
When U.S. President George W. Bush visited Uruguay five months ago during a Latin American tour, Chávez appeared at a soccer stadium rally in neighboring Argentina to shout, ``Gringo, go home!''
POOR MAN'S HERO
The Venezuelan leader haunted Bush on a parallel tour across Latin America, denouncing U.S.-style capitalism with claims that it harms hundreds of millions of poor on the continent.
Franklin Gonzalez, the Venezuelan ambassador to Uruguay, said Chávez and Vazquez share warm ties. He dismissed complaints about Chávez's anti-Bush rally last March and his failure to attend a regional summit here late last year.
''The relationship we have been able to develop is of utmost importance,'' Gonzalez said.
Chávez said Venezuela has acquired roughly $5.1 billion in Argentine bonds over two years and is negotiating other bond deals with leftists Rafael Correa of Ecuador and Evo Morales of Bolivia.