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LA round up: Hugo Chávez watch

Oil firms Exxon Mobil and ConocoPhillips have pulled out of Venezuela following president Hugo Chávez’s latest round of nationalizations, in which he proposed huge increases in state participation in projects run by the two US companies and four others.

Energy minister Rafael Ramírez described the move as "an act of sovereignty", whereas his US counterpart, Sam Bodman, expressed concern at the potential loss of oil imports for his country. While the ousted US firms decide on whether to seek compensation or redress in the courts for their lost assets, the four remaining companies – Chevron, Statoil, BP and Total – can expect to see the state dramatically increase its total stake in their endeavours. Oil projects aren’t the only things on the ever-industrious Chávez’s shopping list – analysts commenting on his June trip to Moscow reported that he was considering buying missile-armed diesel submarines.

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