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Venezuela president orders review of US relations following spying allegations


CARACAS, Venezuela — President Nicolas Maduro said he will file a formal protest and review relations with Washington following a report of U.S. spying on Venezuela's state oil company, including intercepting calls and emails of ex-Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez.

Maduro cited a report published Wednesday by the news outlet "The Intercept" based on a March 2011 article in an internal U.S. National Security Agency newsletter that it said was obtained by leaker Edward Snowden.

Maduro said on national television late Wednesday that he was ordering an investigation and that U.S. charge d'affaires Lee McClenny would be summoned for a formal protest. The U.S. and Venezuela have not had ambassadors in each others capitals since 2010.

"I have ordered our foreign minister to begin an integral review of our relation with the U.S. government," said Maduro, a fierce critic of U.S. foreign policy.

Telesur, a regional television network financed by Venezuela's government, said it obtained a copy of the NSA document that purportedly shows U.S. intelligence spied on internal communications of the state oil company PDVSA all the way up to Ramirez.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that the U.S. would respond via diplomatic channels. He also reiterated the U.S. position that Maduro is seeking scapegoats for Venezuela's problems.

"We've seen many times that the Venezuelan government tries to distract from its own actions by blaming the United States or other members of the international community for events inside their country," Kirby said.

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