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Hugo Chávez oil threats: Why Chávez won't cut off oil to the US

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez threatened to cut off oil to the US on Sunday. The latest Chávez oil threat comes amid a rising diplomatic spat with neighboring Colombia, a staunch US ally in the region.

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President Uribe, who has centered his presidency on providing security by taking on the FARC, has continuously accused Venezuela of supporting the rebels.

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The long-brewing battle has had an impact on the economies of both countries.

Many had hoped that as Juan Manuel Santos takes over the presidency in Colombia on Aug. 7, the relationship between Colombia and Venezuela could begin to heal, even though Mr. Santos served as defense minister at the time of the Ecuadorean raid. Now it seems the hurdles are higher.

Chávez cancels trip to Cuba

On Sunday, Chavez said he had new intelligence, which he did not identify, saying the threat of an attack from Colombia was higher than ever. He canceled a trip Monday to Cuba, where his allies Raúl Castro and Fidel Castro are celebrating Revolution Day today, to address the threat, he said.

Ms. Cardozo says she believes there is no real threat, and that his motivation is to stir up nationalist sentiment ahead of crucial legislative elections in September and deflect attention from economic woes in the country.

“As president, Chávez always does this,” says Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Council of the Americas, a consultancy based in New York. “He is trying to turn a very significant accusation against his country into a win for himself domestically.”

The regional group of South American nations called UNASUR will be meeting in Ecuador soon to try to resolve the conflict, but the US is likely to stay on the sidelines, says Larry Birns, director of the Council on Hemispheric Affairs in Washington.

“Chávez is going through a predictable scenario …. Of marching up the hill and then marching down again,” says Mr. Birns. “Chávez has always indicated that the oil weapon is in his quiver, but … his threat is more bark than bite.”

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