Venezuela Stopping Oil Shipments To Cuba

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:11 PM EDT

( - Venezuela's state-run oil monopoly notified the Castro government Friday that it will stop shipping oil to Cuba because of lack of payments.

The Venezuelan national newspaper "El Nacional" and various wire service reports out of Caracas quoted officials of "Petroleos de Venezuela" as saying the oil deliveries were being cut off because of lack of payments from Cuba.

El Nacional cited company documents that said Venezuela has sold Cuba about 700 million dollars worth of oil, but at least 63 million dollars of that hasn't been paid, according to an internal company document obtained by the paper.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez agreed in 2000 to sell Cuba 53,000 barrels of oil a day. He also allowed Cuba 15 years to pay for it at a low-interest rate. Chavez is known for his close friendship with Cuba's Fidel Castro.

Venezuela has similar oil purchasing agreements with other nations. It is the United States' third largest oil supplier.

Thus far, the Castro government has issued no official reaction.

Earlier Friday, Pedro Carmona, the businessman who became Venezuela's president during a short lived coup last month, disappeared and has asked for political asylum in Colombia, according to Venezuela's foreign minister Luis Davila.

BBC Radio reported Carmona escaped after authorities lifted an order keeping him under house arrest at his Caracas apartment while officials investigated his role in overthrow of President Hugo Chavez last month.

Reports said Carmona remains housed in the Colombian embassy in Caracas. His escape came just a day after a Venezuelan court ordered him transferred to a jail.

Carmona is being investigated on charges of rebellion and conspiracy and could face up to 20 years in jail if convicted.

Chavez was ousted by military generals last month after 17 people died in anti-government protests. He returned to power three days after his ouster.

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