January 13, 2008 / 10:11 PM / 12 years ago

RPT-Venezuela's Chavez orders end to asphalt exports

CARACAS, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez ordered a halt to asphalt exports on Sunday, saying he needed the material to repair roads in the South American country.

“Let’s stop the exports of asphalt,” Chavez told Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez during a live television program.

Chavez, who appears most Sundays on a television program called “Alo Presidente,” was responding to citizen complaints about rundown highways in the interior of the country.

In recent weeks, Chavez has promised to improve his government’s performance on basic issues, including crime and trash collection.

On Sunday, he also ordered the suspension of tolls on all roads that were not main highways with an alternate route.

Historically, Venezuelan asphalt was used to build many U.S. roads. Last year, Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA sold two asphalt refineries it owned in the United States via its Citgo subsidiary.

Ramirez said Venezuela currently exports some 17,000 barrels per day of the tar-like material from a total production of 27,000 bpd, Ramirez said. (Reporting by Patricia Rondon; editing by Gary Crosse)

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