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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Chavez Promises Belarus Unlimited Oil

ReutersPresidents Hugo Chavez and Alexander Lukashenko checking a sample of heavy crude in San Tome on Saturday.
CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez promised to supply the oil needs of Belarus for years to come Saturday, while President Alexander Lukashenko agreed to help Venezuela beef up its military.

As Lukashenko concluded his first visit to Venezuela, Chavez said both he and his counterpart were wrongly labeled "dictators" by Washington and their critics.

"The international media dictatorship ... calls him 'Europe's last dictator,' and me the last dictator of Latin America. Here we are, the last dictators. But it's written in the Bible: The last will be first," Chavez said, laughing. "They demonize us ... [because] we're leading a process of liberating our nations, uniting our nations."

Venezuela and Belarus share similarly hostile stances toward Washington. The U.S. government labels the leftist Chavez a threat to Latin America's stability and calls Belarus an "outpost of tyranny," accusing Lukashenko of stifling dissent and free speech.

Chavez presented Lukashenko with a medal, and they signed an agreement pledging military cooperation. They did not discuss specifics publicly, but Chavez has expressed interest in buying an air defense system from Belarus equipped with radar and anti-aircraft missiles.

The two governments also signed an accord establishing a joint venture to produce oil and natural gas in the South American country.

"The oil your nation needs ... is here, as much as you need for 100 years, 200 years," Chavez said during a ceremony at the Guara Este oil field in eastern Venezuela. "And here is the Belarus-Venezuela mixed company to share this potential and this wealth."

He said the joint venture would operate at an oil field at Lake Maracaibo, one in the Orinoco River basin and three others. "In a few years, we can produce nearly 50,000 barrels of oil per day between us, and that oil will go to Belarus."

The deal could be a boon to Belarus, which is reliant on Russia for its oil and gas. Under the agreement between the countries' state-run companies, Petroleos de Venezuela SA will control 60 percent of the venture, while Belorusneft will take a 40 percent stake.

"We have a way to respond to this great gift the Venezuelan people have given us," Lukashenko said through an interpreter. "I promise ... that we are going to do everything you say for your country, to maintain your sovereignty, guarantee your security and independence."

Officials also signed a series of accords pledging cooperation in areas from mining to construction of public housing in Venezuela.

Although the United States remains the largest consumer of Venezuelan oil, Chavez said his country and Belarus both saw Washington similarly. "We resist being guided, dominated and bound up by an empire that aims to be the world's owner," he said.

n Prime Minister Viktor Zubkov said Friday that he did not see any problems concerning natural gas supply and prices with Belarus, because Moscow and Minsk have a five-year agreement in place.