"We want to sell gasoline and heating fuel directly to poor communities in the United States," the populist leader said at the end of a visit to Communist-run Cuba on Tuesday.

Chavez did not say how Venezuela would go about providing petrol to poor communities.

Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA owns Citgo, which has 14,000 petrol stations in the United States.

The offer may sound attractive to Americans feeling pinched by soaring prices at the pump but not to the US government, which sees Chavez as a left-wing troublemaker in Latin America.

Petrol is cheaper than mineral water in oil-producing Venezuela, where consumers can fill their tanks for less than $2.

Average petrol prices have risen to $2.61 a gallon in the US, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Free health care

Chavez and Castro (R) offered to
train US doctors free of charge

Chavez said Venezuela could supply petrol to Americans at half the price they now pay if intermediaries who "speculated ... and exploited consumers" were cut out.

Venezuela supplies Cuba with generously financed oil, and plans to help Caribbean nations foot their oil bills.

Chavez, in Cuba to attend the graduation of Cuban-trained doctors from 28 countries, was seen off at the airport by Cuban President Fidel Castro.

Washington has accused the two leaders of being a destabilising influence in South America.
 
Chavez and Castro offered to give poor Americans free health care and train doctors free of charge.