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Venezuela to review US ties after spying report

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ©AFP

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says the country will review its relations with the United States following revelations that Washington spied on its state-owned oil and gas company.

The Intercept online publication, which reports the leaks provided by the whistleblower and former US National Security Agency (NSA) contractor, Edward Snowden, published a report on Wednesday, revealing that the US intelligence had carried out espionage operations against the Venezuelan firm, PDVSA.

The report noted that the spying included the interception of calls and emails of former Venezuelan oil minister, Rafael Ramirez.

Reacting to the revelations, Maduro said, "I have ordered our foreign minister to begin an integral review of our relation with the US government."

Back in 2013, Maduro was the first foreign leader to state openly that he was offering sanctuary to Snowden, who is wanted in the United States for leaking details of Washington’s secret surveillance programs. He has in the past described Snowden as a “brave youth” and his actions as "the rebellion of truth."

Maduro, who has frequently slammed Washington for meddling in Venezuela’s domestic affairs, also said US charge d'affaires Lee McClenny would be summoned for a formal protest at US spying.

The two countries remain at odds since late Hugo Chavez became Venezuela’s president in 1999. Both sides have refused to exchange ambassadors since 2010.

In June 2013, US Secretary of State John Kerry and Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elias Jaua agreed on the sidelines of a regional summit in Guatemala to meet “soon” for talks that could lead to an exchange of envoys. A month later, however, Venezuela said it had ended the process of normalizing relations with the United States in protest at claims by the then US ambassador-designate to the United Nations Samantha Power that Caracas was conducting a “crackdown on civil society.”

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