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Last Updated: Monday, 8 May 2006, 12:22 GMT 13:22 UK
Chavez doubles tax for oil firms
President Chavez speaks on his weekly TV show
Hugo Chavez has used oil income to fund social programmes abroad
The tax paid by foreign oil companies operating in Venezuela will be almost doubled, says President Hugo Chavez.

On his weekly television programme Hello President, Mr Chavez said a new "extraction tax" of 33% would replace the current oil royalty of 17%.

He said the levy would raise at least $885m a year, some of which would be used to fund a housing programme.

Venezuela is the world's fifth oil exporter, and Mr Chavez has used oil income to drive his "revolution".

"We are going to create a new oil tax, called the tax on extraction," Mr Chavez told viewers of his marathon six-hour Sunday show.

"The companies that are pumping oil in Venezuela are making a lot of money," he said.

He said the details of the new extraction tax would be revealed in the next few days, but the figure mentioned by Mr Chavez and his oil minister is 33%.

Soldiers guard a gas plant in El Alto, Bolivia
Chavez applauded Bolivia's stricter terms for foreign energy companies

There will be a different arrangement for foreign companies pumping extra-heavy crude in the eastern Faja region, near the Orinoco River. They include Total, ConocoPhillips, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and BP.

These companies - who are combined in four joint ventures with Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA - are already paying 34% in taxes on income.

That tax will rise to 50%, Mr Chavez said. He said the new taxes would be subject to approval by the National Assembly.

Bolivia venture

Mr Chavez praised Bolivia's recent move to bring its gas industry under state control.

He said Venezuela's PDVSA would take an active role in gas and oil exploration efforts in Bolivia. The company had previously pledged technical assistance and investment.

Record oil prices and bigger taxes on oil production have allowed Mr Chavez to fund social programmes at home, and also to roll out aid programmes in external nations.

His critics accuse him of pursuing political objectives through these programmes, but Mr Chavez says they are a step on the way to greater Latin American integration.

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