President Hugo Chavez said Sunday Venezuela would review its ties with the United States if Washington fails to extradite a Cuban exile it wants to try for bombing an airliner three decades ago.
Venezuela is demanding that the United States hand over Luis Posada Carriles, a former CIA operative and militant foe of Cuban President Fidel Castro, to face trial for the 1976 attack on the Cuban aircraft, which killed 73 people.
"If they don't extradite him in the time allowed in our agreements, we will review our relations with the United States," Chavez said on his regular Sunday television program.
"We would have to evaluate whether it was worth keeping an embassy in the United States and whether it is was worth the United States having an embassy in Venezuela."
Posada has denied involvement in the attack.
Washington last week detained Posada on immigration charges for illegally entering the United States two months after he sneaked across the border from Mexico to seek political asylum. He is to appear before an immigration court in June.
Posada's case has underscored tense political relations between Venezuela, the world's No. 5 oil exporter, and the United States, its main energy client.
Chavez, a left-wing former soldier elected in 1998, has deepened ties with Communist Cuba as part of his self-proclaimed revolution to fight poverty. U.S. officials brand him an authoritarian and say he has become a negative force in Latin America.
Posada, who holds Venezuelan citizenship, was twice acquitted by Venezuelan courts of plotting to bomb the Cuban airliner while in Venezuela. He escaped from a Caracas prison in 1985 while awaiting a third trial on appeal.
Chavez and Castro have said Posada's case will test whether President Bush is serious about fighting terrorism.
"It is difficult, very difficult, to maintain ties with a government that so shamelessly hides and protects international terrorism," Chavez said.