Venezuela is investigating a report that the U.S. has been spying on executives of the state-owned petroleum company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), for more than ten years.
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says, “The oil industry is the backbone of the Venezuelan economy. The U.S. empire for a long time has intended to sabotage Venezuela’s oil industry and defeat the Caracas government in order to steal the oil.”
His comments came after news reports that the former contractor for the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) Edward Snowden, is to release information showing NSA had been spying on PDVSA’s senior executives.
Among Snowden’s allegations is the claim that NSA intercepted the calls and emails of the country’s energy minister Rafael Ramirez, who served as PDVSA’s president from 2004 to 2014.
“We cannot accept this,” says Maduro. “It is offensive, a violation of international law,” adding that he will deliver a letter protesting the reported spying to the U.S. chargé d’affaires in Caracas, Lee McClenny. He says he has ordered an investigation into the allegations. There has been no comment from the State Department or McClenny’s office.
The U.S. and Venezuela have not had full diplomatic relations since 2010, after 11 years of strained relationships with Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez, who died in 2013. Chavez continually accused the U.S. of trying to undermine his socialist Government.
Venezuela is the fourth-largest exporter of oil to the United States, after Canada, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.
Political observers say that Maduro’s call for the investigation may be a retaliatory move after two nephews of Maduro’s wife, Cilia Flores, were indicted in New York on charges of cocaine importation.
The Wall Street Journal recently published an article saying the U.S. had begun “a series of wide-ranging investigations into whether Venezuela’s leaders used PDVSA to loot billions of dollars from the country through kickbacks and other schemes.”