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Last Updated: Wednesday, 4 May, 2005, 01:07 GMT 02:07 UK
Venezuelan oil output 'still low'
By Iain Bruce
BBC News, Caracas

Oil pipelines in Venezuela
Oil is Venezuela's main source of foreign cash
President Hugo Chavez has for the first time admitted that Venezuela's oil industry is producing 100,000 barrels a day less than planned.

He said investigations into possible sabotage were under way. But he also blamed the state oil company PDVSA.

This is the clearest admission so far by the government that it is having difficulties restoring full production.

In late 2002 a series of opposition-led protests brought the country's oil industry to a virtual standstill.

"We have a little problem," President Hugo Chavez said on Tuesday. "But we are overcoming it".

He said that in the last three months PDVSA had increased its output, but was still 100,000 barrels short of the amount budgeted.

Disputed output

Last week, Venezuela's Defence Minister Jorge Luis Garcia Carneiro suggested the United States' Central Intelligence Agency might be responsible for organising sabotage in the country's oil industry.

Hugo Chavez
Chavez has not ruled out sabotage by the CIA
President Chavez said this possibility was being investigated, but specifically blamed management mistakes for the failure to meet production targets.

Thirty managers in PDVSA's western oil fields have already been dismissed this year, apparently accused of corruption.

But President Chavez indicated their failure to maintain some oil wells properly was also an issue.

The amount of oil Venezuela produces has long been in dispute.

The government has repeatedly insisted that output was back up to 3.1 million barrels a day.

Many industry analysts put the figure at about 2.7 million barrels a day.

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