Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Venezuela to Seize Foreign Oil Projects

The Cubanization of Venezuela continues unabated.

President Hugo Chavez ordered by decree on Monday the takeover of oil projects run by foreign oil companies in Venezuela's Orinoco River region.

Chavez had previously announced the government's intention to take a majority stake by May 1 in four heavy oil-upgrading projects run by British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA.

He said Monday that has decreed a law to proceed with the nationalizations that will see state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, taking at least a 60 percent stake in the projects.

Chavez is clever, though. He doesn't want to boot out foreign companies. He wants to take majority control, then allow foreigners to run the companies as minority partners. Oil companies are reluctant to abandon the Venezuelan oil fields since Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world outside the Middle East.