Chavez: Venezuela not immune from US economic woes
CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) — President Hugo Chavez said Saturday that Venezuela is not immune to the economic woes afflicting the U.S. and Europe despite efforts to distance itself from world powers and establish a socialist system.
Chavez warned that economic problems around the globe would probably hurt Venezuela as international oil prices fall, but added that the South American nation has partially protected itself by diversifying its economy and forging trade ties with countries like China and Russia.
The self-proclaimed revolutionary said that Venezuela, as one of the world's top petroleum producers, would likely be hurt by the problems that U.S. and European financial markets are experiencing.
"It could impact us. What's the first impact on us? The fall in oil prices, which has already begun," Chavez said during a televised address from the presidential palace.
Crude oil futures ended the week at $86.88 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange, a drop of $8.82 from the week before.
"Venezuela has been preparing to divorce itself from the hegemonic world capitalist system, but we still are not divorced," Chavez said.
The lowering of America's credit rating provoked anxiety among already nervous investors, causing the U.S. stock market to plunge, and rippled through Europe and Asia. The Dow Jones industrial average ended the week down 699 points, the biggest weekly point drop since October 2008.
Earlier Saturday, legislators granted Chavez permission to return to Cuba for a second round of chemotherapy for his cancer. The 57-year-old leader announced Friday that he planned to go to Cuba this weekend after getting legislative approval.
Chavez expressed optimism that he has beat cancer and lambasted opponents who have criticized him for seeking treatment in Cuba rather than remaining in Venezuela for treatment.
"They go crazy every time I announce that I'm going to Cuba," Chavez said. "We will be victorious."
The president is scheduled to undergo medical tests Sunday and Monday in Cuba.
Chavez underwent surgery in Cuba in June to remove a tumor from his pelvic region. He has not disclosed what kind of cancer was found.
National Assembly President Fernando Soto said lawmakers voted unanimously during a special session Saturday to give Chavez authorization to leave the country.