Monday, March 24, 2008

Gloating in Venezuela

President Hugo Chavez called last week's decision by a British court to lift its freeze on $12 billion in assets "historic" at a public celebration today in Caracas. The anti-U.S. Chavez, whose popularity appeared to have peaked after losing a national referendum on socialist reforms last year, heralded the decision as "a victory against imperialism" at Monday's celebration, according to the Reuters international news service. "I feel like the manager of a great baseball team who, after being in the lowest categories you can image, suddenly our team is playing major league and beating the New York Yankees," Chavez told hundreds of workers at the event. Chavez, who still is wildly popular among Venezuela's poor because of his government's lavish social spending, is a baseball fan. The ruling, which the judge said he would explain on Thursday, lifted a court-ordered freeze on assets held by PDVSA, Venezuela's state-owned oil company, after Exxon Mobil filed sued in several countries seeking to block the nationalization of its Venezuelan assets. Venezuela nationalized several foreign-controlled oil projects in the Orinoco oil belt last year. Most companies had agreed to compensation deals, but Exxon Mobil refused to settle and went to court. Chavez cut supplies of oil to Exxon Mobil and threatened to cut off oil entirely to the United States, the country's biggest customer. Lawyers for Exxon Mobil and Petroleos de Venezuela declined to comment on the ruling, Reuters said.

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