Venezuela's Chavez Threatens to Deny Oil, Investments to EU Over Immigration Laws

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez threatened on Thursday to punish European countries that apply strict new rules for deporting illegal immigrants by denying them oil and blocking their investments.

The EU Parliament passed new guidelines Wednesday under which illegal migrants can be held in special detention centers — not jails — for up to 18 months before being expelled.

Chavez said in a televised speech that the measure shows "signs of fascism," and that countries would have to "build concentration camps" to hold millions of immigrants.

"Our oil shouldn't go to those countries" that adopt the policy, he said.

Venezuela sells most of its oil to the United States despite political tensions between the two nations, but is only a minor supplier to Europe. Some European companies operate in Venezuela, including France's Total and Norway's Statoil.

Chavez added that "if some European country starts to apply this and jails Colombians, Paraguayans, Bolivians, Ecuadoreans, then we're going to make our own list of companies from that country that have investments in Venezuela.

"We aren't going to take anyone prisoner, but the company would have to take its investments back there."

Until now, there has been no common EU policy on deporting illegal immigrants, and detention periods varied from 32 days in France to indefinite custody in Britain, the Netherlands and five other countries. Under the new guidelines, member countries must provide detained migrants basic rights such as access to free legal advice.

Chavez noted that Venezuela has good relations with many European countries, such as France, and said it has "turned the page" with Spain after a flap over its king telling him to shut up at a summit last year.

But if Europe pursues this course on immigration, he said, "why have more summits with the European Union?"