Published October 20, 2005
PARIS – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez (search) said Thursday that his government is preparing for a possible U.S. invasion and he warned that such "aggression" would send gasoline in the United States prices soaring higher.
The U.S. government repeated that it is not planning any such thing.
Chavez, a vocal critic of "imperialism" and the Bush administration, said he was not against the American people — just the current government.
"We are sure that it will be very difficult for the United States to attack Venezuela," Chavez said. He said his country has eight oil refineries and 14,000 gasoline stations in the United States.
"If the United States tried to attack Venezuela (search) by a direct invasion, forget the oil," he said during a two-hour news conference beamed live to Venezuela. "Everyday, we send 1.5 million barrels to the United States."
The barrel price of crude oil could hit $150 following a U.S. attack, Chavez said. Currently New York light sweet crude oil trades around $60 a barrel.
"That's why Pat Robertson (search), the spiritual adviser of Mr. Bush, is calling for my assassination — that would be much cheaper than an invasion," Chavez said.
Robertson, the U.S. religious broadcaster, said in August that Chavez should be killed, then later apologized.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said Chavez's suspicions were unfounded.
"I've stated many times before, the United States is prepared to work with any government in the region: left of center, center, right of center. Our issue is with states that don't govern in a democratic manner," McCormack said.
The Venezuelan leader used his news conference to trumpet what he called his "alternative" vision of a world that works for the poor rather than corporations seeking profits.
Chavez reiterated longtime claims that the United States finances his opponents, seeks his ouster and sabotages efforts to move his country forward.
"Venezuela is used to defending itself ... and fighting imperialism," Chavez said, speaking in Spanish with a French translator.
"We must be ready for an aggression," said Chavez, who previously said Venezuela is organizing an expanded military reserve and civilian defense units.
In an interview with British Broadcasting Corp. (search) radio aired earlier Thursday, Chavez said he had evidence to prove the U.S. government was planning an invasion.
Chavez said he believed the reason Washington was plotting an invasion was to take control of Venezuela's oil fields.
Meanwhile, Israel canceled a lucrative deal to upgrade Venezuelan warplanes under American pressure, Israel TV reported Thursday.
The report said Israel was to install its own systems in U.S.-made F-16 fighters for the Venezuelan air force, but the U.S. government forced Israel to call off the deal. No dollar figure for the deal was given.
Israeli Defense Ministry officials were not immediately available for comment.