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On November 10th Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez met with Colombian President Alvaro Uribe in Cartagena de las Indias to strengthen relations between the countries and discuss the possibility of constructing an oil pipeline through Colombia via el Río Meta. The pipeline would stretch over 1,000 kilometers, (625 miles), connecting the Venezuelan city of Maracaibo with the Colombian Pacific province of Chocó.

Venezuela, the world’s fifth largest producer of oil, is looking to diversify its markets. The International Energy Agency has projected a 15% increase in Chinese demand for oil. It has also been forcasted that Japanese consumption will rise. Ivan Orellana, Venezuela’s governor to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, commented that the projected increase in demand justifies higher shipping costs to the Asiatic countries.

As it stands, 60% of the Venezuelan crude oil is sold to the US via the Panama Canal. According to Julio César Vera, a Colombian Mines Ministry Oficial, the proposed agreement with Colombia would not only allow Venezuela to export to a greater number of countries but it would also create a route capable of accomodating even the largest of oil tankers.

Alfredo Rangel, executive director of the Bogota-based security and foreign affairs research firm, expects that this project would also benefit Colombia in that it is “[...] an opportunity to develop the Choco and outlets to the Pacific, which are very scarce and poorly developed.”

The project will be presented to both nations by the Andean Corporation of Promotion by the end of the month.

Chavez also took advantage of the summit to clarify that he in no way supported the Colombian guerrilla group, the FARC. “We reassure the Colombian peoeple that they should not believe the lie that they repeat in the North...” After concluding the reunion, Chavez, in a statement made to the press, said that if the rumors about alleged Venezuelan support for the Colombian guerrilla were true, he would be ashamed to meet with Uribe. He went on to say that Venezuela wanted peace in Colombia, as well as further integration, not only between Venezuela and Colombia, but throughout South America.