Ecuador, Venezuela Build Oil Refinery on Pacific

EL AROMO, Ecuador - Venezuela and Ecuador plan to build the biggest oil refinery on South America's Pacific Coast, to wean Venezuelan crude away from US refineries, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced here Tuesday.

"Instead of having refineries in the United States, we decided to keep them here in our geopolitical context," Chavez said as he launched the project together with Ecuadoran President Rafael Correa.

The joint 6.6 billion dollar project by state-run oil firms PDVSA, of Venezuela, and Petroecuador, of Ecuador, will refine 300,000 barrels of crude a day, saving Ecuador 3.0 billion dollars in oil imports a year, Correa said.

The refinery will go up in El Aromo, in Ecuador's coastal province of Manabi, and should be ready in 2013.

Chavez said he plans to build other refineries in Brazil and Nicaragua — Venezuela's leftist allies in the region — to keep Venezuela's oil wealth away from the United States, where Venezuela currently runs seven refineries.

"Everything ended up in the United States; that's what the empire and colonialism are all about," Chavez said.

Chavez said his goal was to provide "energy security for all the people in the (South American) continent."

He also proposed building a joint steel plant in Ecuador and help it improve its telephone service.

Correa said Chavez's plans were not motivated by "interest" or a desire to interfere in his neighbors' affairs, but by a feeling of solidarity and his belief in the "Latin American Union."

Venezuela and Ecuador are the only Latin American members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).

Source: AFP