Chavez Says Attack Could Send Oil to $500

CARACAS, Venezuela -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said last week that crude oil would rise to "$400 or $500" per barrel in the event of a U.S. attack on his country, the biggest petroleum exporter in the Americas.

The reactivation of the U.S. Fourth Fleet in the Caribbean on July 1, as well as what he said is a possible U.S. base on the Guajira Peninsula, which is shared by Venezuela and Colombia, are both considered to be threats, Chavez said in a speech broadcast last night from the military academy.

Chavez, who has long criticized the U.S. role in Latin America and warned that oil could rise to $200 a barrel in the case of an attack on Venezuela or Iran, said that given recent price increases in the crude market, his previous estimate was too low.

"Now, we're at $120 and it's continuing up," he said. "If there's a war against Venezuela, with the oil in this soil, it won't depart from the Venezuelans, it won't go to anyone."

The country is buying light, fast tanks and training citizens to defend the country against possible threats, he said.

In July, Chavez plans to meet with President Dmitry Medvedev in Moscow to discuss more arms purchases, which may include long- and short-range anti-aircraft defense systems.