August 24, 2008 / 5:09 PM / 11 years ago

Venezuela oil company PDVSA to open sports office

CARACAS, Aug 24 (Reuters) - Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA will open a sports office to train athletes after a lackluster Olympic performance, President Hugo Chavez said on Sunday, expanding PDVSA social efforts that already range from food sales to road repairs.

PDVSA has become the financial engine of Chavez’s self-styled socialist revolution, financing and carrying out a broad array of social programs that have made the leftist leader popular among the country’s poor.

“PDVSA shall open an office of competitive sports,” Chavez instructed Energy Minister and PDVSA President Rafael Ramirez during a television broadcast in the company of Olympic athletes.

Chavez for months touted Venezuela’s Olympic delegation of more than 100 athletes, but the OPEC nation won only a single bronze medal in the Beijing games.

Critics say PDVSA is already overstretched with social spending obligations and charge the company is underinvesting in the oil industry that provides more than 10 percent of the United States’ imported crude oil.

Reporting by Brian Ellsworth, Editing by Sandra Maler

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