Venezuela's Chavez said to mull oil move
Report says the nation's president wants majority control on tapping biggest oil deposit, would jack up companies' taxes.

NEW YORK ( - In a move that could put even more pressure on already record-high oil prices, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is a further step toward nationalizing his nation's oil industry, according to a published report.

The Wall Street Journal, in a story dated Monday for its online edition, said Chavez's allies in Venezuela's Congress are considering a big tax hike on foreign companies' operations in the Orinoco River basin, which is Venezuela's biggest oil deposit.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez

The paper said Chavez wants to seize majority control of the basin operations, forcing the foreign companies - which include Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips of the U.S. - to take a minority stake, according to an unnamed top executive in the state-run oil company Petroleos de Venezuela.

The Journal said that while final action could be weeks or months away, the first step could be taken this week when lawmakers review a congressional investigation into a 1990's plan to open up part of the oil industry to private investment. Chavez has been rolling back that policy, the paper said.

The paper said ConocoPhilips (Research) declined comment, and that an Exxon Mobil (Research) spokesman said, ""It's not uncommon for us to have difficult issues that we have to work with the government to resolve, and we take a long-term view of that."

Venezuela, an OPEC member, holds the world's biggest oil reserves outside the Middle East, and is the No. 3 supplier to the United States, according to the Journal.


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