Chavez Quietly Courts Western Oil Firms

Falling oil prices force Venezuelan prez to swallow his pride
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 15, 2009 1:50 AM CST
Hugo Chavez, surrounded by members of the National Assembly, greets supporters as he arrives at the Congress building in Caracas this week.   (AP Photo/Juan Carlos Solorzano, Miraflores Press Office)
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(Newser) – The falling price of oil is forcing Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to quietly make overtures to the Western oil companies he used to harass and shun, reports the New York Times. Chavez needs the foreign expertise and purchasing power to help boost Venezuela's declining production and income. The lure of the country's huge untapped reserves means Western firms are willing to risk another Chavez U-turn.

Oil revenues have funded Chavez's ambitious social programs, but giving the capitalist giants a bigger stake in the industry may be the only way to keep the president's socialist agenda afloat.  "If re-engaging with foreign oil companies is necessary to his political survival, then Chavez will do it,” said an expert on Venezuela’s oil industry. “He is a military man who understands losing a battle to win the war.”