As Venezuelan deliveries wane, allies tap traders for pricey fuel
By Marianna Parraga and Brian Ellsworth
HOUSTON/CARACAS Aug 21 (Reuters) - Venezuela's shipments of crude oil and fuel to its allies have fallen to a five-year low as a weak economy hits its ability to uphold accords that former President Hugo Chavez struck to lower energy costs for friends and expand his diplomatic clout.
Total shipments under cooperation deals with Latin American and Caribbean countries dropped 11 percent in 2013 to 243,000 barrels per day (bpd), the lowest level since 2007, according to recent data from Venezuela's state-owned oil company PDVSA.
Several factors are behind the decline: lower oil output and weak economic growth at home, a domestic refinery network that has not fully recovered from a severe accident in 2012, and financing agreements with China that divert much of the OPEC nation's oil production to Asia.
Some of the beneficiaries of the cheap oil are now being forced to turn to other sources.
In the eights months through August, countries from Jamaica to Argentina that have supply pacts with Venezuela have bought 140 cargoes of crude, components and fuel for transport and power generation on the open market, according to tender information compiled by Reuters.
More than two thirds of those were for Ecuador, one of Venezuela's closest allies.
The purchases, which have left tankers in short supply, are far costlier than oil obtained through long-term pacts.
Chavez, who was Venezuela's socialist president for 14 years before his death from cancer in March 2013, used the country's oil wealth to help allies and extend his political influence across Latin America and the Caribbean. Continuación...