Venezuela to help Bolivia explore for gas, oil

Venezuela's state oil company has announced plans to help Bolivia explore for and extract natural gas and oil following a nationalization move that has rattled some foreign investors.

Rafael Ramirez, president of Petroleos de Venezuela SA, said Thursday a natural gas extraction plant will be built in the Andean country and that they will also help with "the certification, exploration and exploitation of oil and gas" reserves.

Ramirez made the remarks while accompanying Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez at a meeting with the leaders of Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia in this northeastern Argentine city near the border with Brazil.

He said an accord formalizing the projects would be signed when Chavez visits Bolivia on May 18.

Ramirez said Venezuela would help Bolivia in exchange for soybeans. It wasn't immediately clear if other cash payments would be made as part of the accord, or what Venezuela's total investment in the projects would be.

Venezuela pledged to buy Bolivian soybeans after Colombia finalized a free-trade pact with the U.S. that is expected to open its markets to cheaper U.S. soybeans, hurting imports from Bolivia.

Ramirez's comments echoed similar remarks a day earlier by Chavez, who said "PDVSA is willing to invest its experience and its modest resources to certify the presence of the largest possible reserves in Bolivia."

Chavez told his Bolivian counterpart Evo Morales during a meeting in La Paz on Wednesday that Venezuela is ready to offer technological assistance to Bolivia in the exploration of new gas and oil deposits, the Information Ministry said in a statement.

Chavez said he would personally visit a Bolivian oil field in May in an effort to advance a "strategic" alliance between PDVSA and Bolivia's state oil company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, the ministry statement said, reports the AP.


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