CARACAS - President Hugo Chávez threatened yesterday to cut off oil sales to the United States in an "economic war" if
Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA in US, British, and Dutch courts as it challenges the nationalization of a multibillion dollar oil project by Chávez's government.
A British court has issued an injunction "freezing" as much as $12 billion in assets.
"If you end up freezing [Venezuelan assets] and it harms us, we're going to harm you," Chávez said during his weekly radio and television program, "Hello, President." "Do you know how? We aren't going to send oil to the United States. Take note, Mr. Bush, Mr. Danger."
Chávez has repeatedly threatened to cut off oil shipments to the United States, which is Venezuela's No. 1 client, if Washington tries to oust him.
Chávez's warnings yesterday appeared to extend that threat to attempts by oil companies to challenge his government's nationalization drive through lawsuits.
"I speak to the US empire, because that's the master: Continue and you will see that we won't send one drop of oil to the empire of the United States," Chávez said.
"The outlaws of Exxon Mobil will never again rob us," Chávez said, accusing the Irving, Texas-based oil company of acting in concert with Washington.
Exxon Mobil spokeswoman Margaret Ross said the company had no comment.
A US Embassy spokeswoman in Caracas did not return a call yesterday.
Venezuela accounted for about 12 percent of US crude oil imports in November, the latest figures available from the US Energy Department. The 1.23 million barrels a day from Venezuela makes that country the US's fourth-biggest oil importer behind Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico.
Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez has argued that court orders won by Exxon Mobil have "no effect" on the state oil company and are merely "transitory measures" while Venezuela presents its case in New York and London.
Exxon Mobil is also taking its claims to international arbitration, disputing the terms it was granted under Chávez's nationalization last year of four heavy oil projects in the Orinoco River basin.
Other major oil companies, including US-based Chevron Corp., France's Total, Britain's