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Venezuelan President on Regional Tour for Energy, Economic Push


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is in Uruguay as part of a regional tour aimed at helping his country's bid for admission to the South American trade bloc Mercosur.

Mr. Chavez says he will guarantee Uruguay access to Venezuelan oil for decades. The Venezuelan leader also says his country will help increase the capacity of Uruguay's only oil refinery.

Mr. Chavez discussed the energy plans with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez and other top officials late Wednesday. He plans to travel to Ecuador Thursday, then head to Bolivia.

His previous stop on the tour was Argentina, where he said Venezuela plans to acquire up to $1 billion in Argentine bonds.

He is offering energy and financial deals on each stop to try to ease Venezuela's entry into Mercosur.

Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay and Uruguay formed Mercosur in 1991.

Mercosur now accounts for $1 trillion in annual economic activity and includes 250 million people. Mr. Chavez has accused Paraguay and Brazil of blocking the ratification of Venezuela's entry to the group.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.

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