CARACAS, Venezuela — President Hugo Chavez threatened on Sunday to cut off oil sales to the United States if Venezuela is attacked by its U.S.-allied neighbor Colombia in a dispute over allegations that Venezuela gives haven to Colombian rebels.
Chavez said in a speech: "If there is any armed aggression against Venezuela from Colombian territory or anywhere else supported by the Yankee empire, we … would suspend shipments of oil to the United States!
"We wouldn't send another drop of oil to its refineries, not a single drop more!" Chavez shouted, adding that the U.S. is "the big one to blame for all the tension in this part of the world."
If actually carried out, such a threat would be a titanic economic blow for Chavez's government, which depends heavily on oil sales. The U.S. is the top buyer of oil from Venezuela, which is the United States' fifth-biggest foreign supplier.
But Colombia has not threatened military action. It's likely Chavez made the warning in part to put Washington and Bogota on notice that he will not stand for a more aggressive international campaign regarding allegations that leftist Colombian rebels find refuge in Venezuela.
Chavez cut off diplomatic relations with Colombia on Thursday after outgoing President Alvaro Uribe's government presented photos, videos and maps of what it said were Colombian rebel camps inside Venezuela. Chavez called it an attempt to smear his government.