Venezuelan Congress to Give Chavez New Powers for Oil, Natural Gas Decrees

Venezuelan Congress to Give Chavez New Powers for Oil, Natural Gas Decrees

Venezuelan lawmakers said Monday they would give President Hugo Chavez special powers to make changes to the country’s oil, gas and electricity industries by presidential decree.

National Assembly President Cilia Flores said lawmakers loyal to Chavez would approve an “enabling law” allowing the leader to pass measures by decree for 18 months in the “energy sphere” in addition to 10 other areas announced earlier, ranging from the economy to defense.

“We are in complete agreement with the executive branch legislating on energy issues,” Flores said. She said the law would permit Chavez to make “necessary adaptations” in the oil industry, as well as the natural gas and electricity sectors.

The pending bill is expected to receive final approval on its second reading in the assembly as early as Wednesday.

It was not immediately clear what changes Chavez would make within the oil and gas industries as he moves to transform Venezuela into a full socialist state. Earlier this month, Chavez said oil projects in the Orinoco River basin involving foreign energy firms should be under majority state ownership.

Chavez, a close ally of Cuban leader Fidel Castro, has not said how his plans for the oil projects would be carried out. He also hasn’t spelled out whether foreign investors would be compensated.

Chavez has said the private companies affected — British Petroleum PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips Co., Total SA and Statoil ASA — would be given the option to stay on as minority partners in the eastern Orinoco region.

Among his other plans are nationalizing Venezuela’s main telecommunications company CA Nacional Telefonos de Venezuela, or CANTV, which is part owned by Verizon Communications Inc., as well as the electricity and natural gas sectors.

Chavez, who was re-elected to a new six-year term last month, also has formed a commission to rewrite the constitution and expects to hold a referendum on the changes by the end of the year.

Among the changes, Chavez has proposed doing away with presidential term limits to allow for indefinite re-election. Term limits currently bar him from running again in 2012.

Source: AP via

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