Caracas, Venezuela (VA) – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has announced that his government will review its diplomatic ties to the US, after a leaked document revealed the National Security Agency (NSA) had spied on executives at Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA.
The document, released by the Intercept in conjunction with TeleSUR this past Wednesday, is reported to have come from US whistleblower Edward Snowden. It details how the NSA hacked the e-mail accounts of thousands of PDVSA employees and executive officials, including the company president, Rafael Ramirez, in a bid to monitor PDVSA activity and the national government’s oil policy.
“I have told the foreign minister to demand an explanation and a huge apology for these illegal actions under international law, and I am going to conduct a total revision of our relations with the US,” the president said in comments to TeleSUR.
Relations between Venezuela and the US have been strained since the leftist government of Hugo Chavez was elected in Venezuela in 1998, and both infamously withdrew their respective ambassadors in 2010.
Following his election, Chávez “renationalised” the Venezuelan oil industry, increasing government control over subcontracting rights and substantially raising taxes for foreign drilling companies.
While the measures drew support from ordinary Venezuelans, they proved unpopular with transnational private oil corporations that had previously operated unrestrictedly in Venezuela, which is home to the world’s largest oil reserves.
According to Maduro, Wednesday’s revelation is confirmation that the US is actively seeking to undermine his government.
“To what ends are they spying on them (PDVSA employees), for the economic war, for persecution, to destroy (us) from the inside,” he said.
He also confirmed that Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez would officially deliver a “letter of protest” to US government representatives in Caracas this coming Thursday in view of the “unacceptable” and “massive attack” against Venezuela’s oil industry.
“It is the backbone of the country,” he said, referencing the numerous public services which are funded by the country’s income from oil.
On Wednesday evening, the head of state also met with thousands of PDVSA workers in a televised event, where he vowed to make the US apologise for having violated their privacy and asked for their support in confronting imperialism.
“The era of colonialism must be a bygone era, Venezuela must be active in defending its sovereignty and self-determination,” he proclaimed.
Despite ongoing dialogue to restore diplomatic ties between the two countries, talks have been derailed due to what the Venezuelan government has described as “aggressive” behaviour from the US, which continues to be the main buyer of Venezuelan oil.
Earlier in April 2015, US President Barack Obama invoked the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) to declare Venezuela a “threat” to US national security and slapped sanctions on several Venezuelan government officials, banning their entry into the US.
A number of US government spokespeople have also publicly questioned the efficacy of Venezuela’s democratic system in the run-up to parliamentary elections on 6th December, with no evidence presented to date.
The latest NSA revelations are expected to significantly exacerbate the already frosty relationship between the two countries.
The Maduro government is expected to make further announcements in the coming days. To date, there has been no response from US state agencies.
This report was prepared by RACHAEL BOOTHROYD ROJAS for Venezuelanalysis.com