'OIL COULD RISE ABOVE $100'
(FORTUNE Magazine) – The President of Venezuela rarely grants interviews to foreign media, but FORTUNE's Nelson Schwartz and Jenny Mero sat down with him in mid-September (he was in New York for the U.N. General Assembly) to discuss why he thinks oil could get so expensive and why America is the real threat.
Politicians on Capitol Hill accuse you of being a threat to the U.S. Are you?
No. We're not any threat to the U.S. Our company here, Citgo, offers services to millions of people in the U.S. every day. We've given jobs to thousands of Americans.
What do you think it will take to improve relations with the U.S.?
Only respect--respect for our sovereignty, for our laws, and for our people. Coups, economic sabotage, supporting destabilizing movements--that needs to stop. The U.S. government is a threat to us and to the whole world.
Do you think the U.S. would actually invade Venezuela or try to remove you from power?
Without any doubt, because we know who's in the White House, and he's capable of absolutely anything. The government of Mr. Bush has converted the U.S. into a terrorist state. Nevertheless, we have a lot of faith, and we're working hard to impede any kind of greater conflict.
Is there a scenario where you could see shutting off the flow of oil to the U.S.?
Yes, it could happen if there was direct aggression against Venezuela. If that happened, then of course there wouldn't be any Venezuelan oil sent to the U.S. Possibly not to anybody. If Venezuela's production were affected, I'm sure oil could rise above $100 a barrel.
You're raising taxes on Big Oil--do you worry they will leave Venezuela?
Foreign corporations should rest assured and have faith in our laws and in our government. We're doing very good business with them. Almost all the oil companies in the world are in Venezuela--Chevron, Exxon Mobil, ConocoPhillips, Petrobras, Statoil, Shell.
What about those back-tax claims?
Our laws were being violated. This is a serious government. Before, PDVSA was held hostage by an elite and run from Washington. That's over. Now we're free.
You call President Bush "Mr. Danger." Why?
[Laughs] It's a reference from a wonderful Venezuelan novel. There's a character named Mr. Danger. In reality, the U.S. President is a threat to the world--and his own people too. Take a look at Katrina. He was on vacation--he appeared four or five days later. He couldn't even offer a glass of water, bread, or medicine to so many dying people. He's a threat, Mr. Danger.