Venezuelan President Carter Andres Perez left here today prepared to meet Jimmy Carter with a tough oil-conservation policy and firm support for human rights.
Verez is the first South American president to [WORD ILLEGIBLE] the Carter White House. His trip, beginning [WORDS ILLEGIBLE] with a two-day round of talks with Carter [WORD ILLEGIBLE] high administration officials and including [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in several other U.S. cities, signals an increas [WORD ILLEGIBLE] close relationship between the United States [WORD ILLEGIBLE] one of its largest oil suppliers.
Following a somewhat chilly period during the Nixon and Ford administrations, Venezuela has become Carter's strongest and most vocal backer in [WORD ILLEGIBLE] in America.
Ferez told reporters yesterday that Carter's "valiant" human-rights program and efforts to control nuclear arms proliferation had his "absolute backing."
One of the few remaining democracies on the South American continent, Venezuela, under Perez, has assumed a position of Third World leadership and has in effect appointed itself the guardian of freedom in Latin America.
Many of its current government officials, including Perez, were imprisoned or exiled under a dictatorship that ended in 1958.
In international forums, Venezuelan diplomats are outspoken in defense of human rights.
While strongly anti-Communist, Venezuela maintains good relations with nations as widely divergent in policy as Argentina and Cuba. Earlier this year, Perez visited Moscow.
"I want to be a voice of the aspirations of the Third World, of Latin America and, of course, of our country individually," Perez said. Admitting to a "certain audacity," Perez said Venezuela is in a unique position - as a democracy, a developing country and a leading member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries - to undertake the task.
Although it has reserved its warmest feelings for Carter, Venezuela has been met by the American people with indifference and a lack of knowledge.
In a recent Venezuelan-commissioned survey of U.S. public opinion conducted by Carter pollster Pat Caddell, Venezuela found that most of the very few Americans who knew anything about their country believed that it is governed by a dictator. Those who knew where Venezuela was - fewer than a third of those polled - associated it only with oil and a tropical climate.
Perez made it clear with a friendly but firm smile, that Venezuela must be treated as an equal.
"Our raw materials, which the industrialized countries need, should be dealt with in the same manner as the manufactured products which we have to buy," he wrote in a Sunday advertising supplement published in American newspapers.
While the two leaders are expected to issue a joint communique on human rights, most of his discussions with Carter will concern oil, Perez said. A supplier of the United States for more than 50 years, Venezuela sends more than a million barrels a day, half of its total petroleum production, to the northeastern United States.
Production has been cut by more than a third under the three-year-old Perez administration, based on a conservation policy that has stretched Venezuela's current known oil reserves from a projected 10 year's to depletion to more than 25 years.
Yet t obe extracted are an estimated 700 billion barrels in southern Venezuela's Orinoco River belt. The petroleum, much of it a heavy grade known as "tar," is difficult to exploit, and Venezuelans say they expect Carter to ask Perez for a U.S. option on the oil in return for soma sort of technological exchange or other concession.
Despite his warm feelings for Carter, Perez said yesterday that "It is inconceivable to think that, with our conservation program, we are going to negotiate the exploitation of . . . the Orinoco."
Since last year's successful nationalization of the Venezuelan oil industry, Perez has consistently maintained that his country will make no special deals with any country or even again put itself under the thumb of multinational corporations. The Orinoco oil, he said yesterday, will be explored and exploited by Venezuelans, or whomever they choose, and probably not until eight to 10 years from now.