Venezuela expels US ambassador, threatens to cut oil

CARACAS, September 12, 2008 (AFP) – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez expelled the US envoy to Caracas late Thursday and threatened to halt crude exports to the United States on a day he highlighted the recent arrival of two Russian Tu-160 strategic bombers.

Chavez on Thursday ordered US ambassador Patrick Duddy to leave the country within 72 hours, in a move he described as an act of solidarity with Venezuela’s ally Bolivia, which also expelled its US envoy.

“Starting at this moment the Yankee ambassador in Caracas has 72 hours to leave Venezuela,” Chavez said at a public event in the port city of Puerto Cabello, 120 kilometers west of Caracas.

He said it was “in solidarity” with the leftist government of President Evo Morales in Bolivia, which on Wednesday ordered the US ambassador to La Paz to leave. Washington late Thursday expelled Bolivia’s ambassador to the United States.

Chavez then threatened to halt the supply of oil to the United States, its main client, if Washington attacks his government.

“If there is any aggression towards Venezuela” from Washington, “there would be no oil for the people of the United States,” said Chavez, who used coarse expletives to disparage the US government.

Also Thursday Chavez announced th