Colombia suspended gas exports to Venezuela for technical reasons, state-controlled oil company Ecopetrol said Thursday, amid a diplomatic spat between the two neighbors over military deals.
“The original contract signed with Venezuela stipulated the suspension of deliveries when required for maintenance work and that is what is happening,” an official at Ecopetrol told AFP.
Service along the pipeline that ships Colombian gas to the Venezuelan port city of Maracaibo would be restored no later than September 22, the official added, insisting the halted exports have “nothing to do with the current diplomatic crisis the two nations are living through.”
Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Brazil and Argentina have objected to Washington’s plan to use seven Colombian bases, saying the US military deployment would be suspiciously large for the stated purpose of fighting Colombian drug traffickers and rebels.
Chavez, long a thorn in Washington’s side, went so far as to freeze ties with Colombia over the controversial deal, saying the bases could be a prelude to an invasion of his oil-rich nation and speaking of “winds of war” blowing across the region because of the move.
The firebrand leftist leader has announced a string of recent contracts with Moscow to buy 24 advanced fighter jets, 92 battle tanks and 300 surface-to-air missiles among other weapons acquisitions. The total value of the deals exceeds six billion dollars.
In October 2007, Chavez and Colombian President Alvaro Uribe, a conservative, inaugurated the 225-kilometer (140-mile) pipeline, which currently exports some 250 million cubic feet (seven million cubic meters) of gas per day from Colombia to Venezuela.
Colombia is expected to continue exporting gas to Venezuela through 2011, after which Venezuela is set to deliver 150 to 200 million cubic feet (4.25 to 5.66 million cubic meters) of gas per day to Colombia.
Uribe is facing pressure to suspend gas exports to Venezuela in the wake of Chavez’s decision to freeze trade with Bogota over the bases deal. Trade between the two neighbors totaled 6.1 billion dollars last year.
Colombian exports to Venezuela fell 28.8 percent in the first seven months of 2009 compared to the same period during the previous year, while total Colombian exports dropped 19.6 percent. (AFP)