CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuela strongly criticized what it called Britain's threats against Argentina as its South American ally intensifies its claim to the Falkland Islands.
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Nicolas Maduro said Monday that the government of President Hugo Chavez rejects "the threats and attempts at intimidation that are taking shape in Europe."
He did not specify the threats, though tensions between Britain and Argentina have grown recently, especially around the anniversary of Argentina's invasion of the Falklands, which Argentines say Britain has long illegally occupied.
Argentina has increasingly sought to isolate the South Atlantic islands by barring trade, ships and planes from adjacent Argentine territory and waters. That has led to shortages of some types of produce on the islands.
Argentina's claim to the islands, which are known in Latin America as the Islas Malvinas, has widespread support across the region.
While Argentina considers the islands an illegal British colony, the British government says the Falklands have long been a self-governing British territory.
Britain, which has controlled the Falklands since 1833, sent forces to the islanders' defense when Argentine forces invaded on April 2, 1982. The 74-day war ended when British troops routed the Argentines. In all, 255 British soldiers, 649 Argentines and three islanders were killed.
Venezuela also threw its support behind Argentina's decision to renationalize the South American country's largest oil company and said it's willing to help Argentina strengthen its oil industry.
Fernandez has put a bill to congress that would give Argentina a majority stake in oil and gas company YPF by taking control of 51 percent of its shares currently held by Spain's Repsol, a move that could cause a major rift with Spain.
Venezuela, Latin America's largest oil producer, has forged strong relations with Argentina.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez announced the move to gain control of Argentina's energy reserves on Monday.
Maduro also suggested that the United States is losing clout with its Latin American neighbors, saying U.S. officials were overwhelmed by the show of support from Latin American leaders who strongly objected to Washington's stance against Cuba's inclusion in the hemisphere's affairs during last week's Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia.
"The isolation of the United States was evident in Cartagena," Maduro said.
The United States insists the communist-run nation must be barred from the 18-year-old Summit of the Americas.
Several Latin American nations are certain to boycott the next meeting, possibly leading to its cancellation, if Washington does not change its position, Maduro said.
"If Cuba is not invited, there won't be another Summit of the Americas," he said.
During a televised interview, Maduro accused the United States of conspiring against Venezuela's government. Washington has teamed up with opponents of Chavez to orchestrate plans aimed at spurring street violence or a possible coup attempt ahead of an Oct. 7 presidential election.
"At this moment it's difficult to consider an improvement in the relations with the United States due to this conspiracy," he said.
Maduro, one of Chavez's closest confidants, said President Barack Obama "represents the machinery of this conspiracy."
Relations between Caracas and Washington have been tense for years. U.S. officials have questioned Chavez's commitment to democracy while Chavez has accused Washington of aiding his political adversaries.