21 March 2006
Venezuela’s Chavez lashes out at free trade pacts while agreeing to El Salvador fuel sales
By JORGE RUEDA
Associated Press Writer
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s government agreed to supply fuel under preferential terms to El Salvador on Monday, signing an accord with a group of leftist mayors from the Central American country.
Chavez used the occasion to lash out at U.S.-backed free trade agreements like the one El Salvador joined earlier this month - the Central American Free Trade Agreement.
’’They’re making deals with the devil, the devil himself,’’ Chavez told his audience during a signing ceremony.
Oil shipments under the accord are to begin ’’as soon as possible,’’ said Violeta Menjivar, the mayor-elect of San Salvador. ’’Great hopes are awakening in our country,’’ she said.
Details of the amount of oil to be sold or the precise terms were not immediately available.
But Salvadoran officials from the left-leaning Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party, or FMLN, said previously they hoped to receive some 21,000 gallons (79,500 liters) a month of diesel and gasoline under Venezuela’s Petrocaribe initiative, which sells oil directly to Caribbean countries with generous financing.
Chavez argues that U.S.-proposed free-trade pacts, such as the Free Trade Area of the Americas, would help big U.S. companies at the expense of Latin America’s poor.
’’The FTAA is dead,’’ said Chavez, who has joined Cuba in proposing a vaguely defined ’’Bolivarian Alternative’’ trade pact based on socialist principles.
’’We will defeat imperialism, sooner rather than later,’’ said Chavez, who also reiterated that Venezuela would triumph if the U.S. ever were to try to invade. Washington officials have characterized as ridiculous Chavez’s repeated claims that the United States may be planning to invade his country.
The accord was signed Monday between the Venezuelan state oil firm subsidiary PDV Caribe and the Intermunicipal Energy Association for El Salvador, which officials said was formed by mayors of the FMLN.
Chavez and other speakers paid tribute at the signing ceremony to the late FMLN leader Shafik Handal, who died in January of a heart attack and who as a rebel years ago fought U.S.-backed troops during El Salvador’s civil war.
Salvadoran President Tony Saca, whose government joined the U.S.-backed free trade area, criticized the Venezuelan oil deal and urged the FMLN on Monday not to try to generate ’’false hopes’’ among Salvadorans with the deal.