Source Pravda.Ru

Washington loses patience on Venezuela

The crisis in the South American country may frustrate US plans in Iraq
As political temperature in Venezuela keeps on rising, the US Department of State decided to take the conflict very seriously and designed a new action plan to avoid a global oil crisis. The problem for Washington is that Venezuela's strike has mined the normal flow of crude to USA just weeks before the so-called attack on Iraq.

Venezuela's strike has contributed to an increase in U.S. gasoline prices by 5 cents per gallon in the past three weeks to an average $1.50 a gallon, according to the Lundberg Survey of 8,000 U.S. service stations. No one can predict which will be the impact on oil prices of a war against the regime of Saddam Hussein.

Citing scarce gasoline imports from Venezuela, the U.S. Energy Department said American motorists could pay up to $1.54 per gallon of gasoline this spring even if war is averted in Iraq.

"The market underestimated the tenacity of the Venezuelan strikers,'' said Phil Flynn, head of the energy trading desk at Alaron Trading Corp. on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange to the foreign press. "People are finally starting to wake up not just to the strike but also to Venezuela's importance as an U.S. supplier".

Therefore, an immediate resolution of the crisis in Venezuela is absolutely necessary to secure oil supplying in case the battles in the Middle East become long. Therefore, the US Department of State initiated talks with other powers amid the region to reinforce OAS mission in Caracas. Washington wants Brazil, Mexico and probably Argentina to be part of the "Friends of Venezuela" group, to conclude the mediation talks with a reasonable agreement between Chavez and the opposition. The sooner, the better for US interests.

By the way, the UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, got also involved in the conflict on Tuesday. Annan offered his help to calm down the situation in Caracas. But he does not lose time: on Thursday, Annan will meet Chavez in New York during the turning over of Venezuela's leadership of the "Group of 77" developing nations to Morocco for 2003.

"I will be seeing President Hugo Chavez here on Thursday ... and I hope to be able to discuss with him the developments in Venezuela, and how one can intensify the mediation efforts, to calm the situation and return it to normality," Annan said to Reuters.

Venezuela already lost $4 billion due to the oil strike. How much can lose the oil depending US industry if solutions do not come soon?

Hernan Etchaleco PRAVDA.Ru Argentina

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