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Venezuela: Between a rock and a hard place

IT IS NEVER easy choosing between two disagreeable options, but that is what oil majors must do by 26 June. President Hugo Chávez has given the owners of the country's Orinoco Belt extra-heavy-crude projects an ultimatum: cede 60% of the control of projects worth $30bn to state-owned PdV or leave the country – perhaps empty-handed. On 1 May, PdV assumed control of the four extra-heavy-oil upgraders that produce refinery-ready synthetic crude – projects with production capacity of more than 0.6m barrels a day (b/d) in which ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Total, Chevron, BP and Statoil hold stakes. But Chávez's take-over of the physical assets, with soldiers standing by, was just the mise-en-scè

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