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Chávez watch: Venezuela strikes deal with Japanese firms

Venezuela has negotiated a new loan agreement with several Japanese companies. The money is earmarked for the expansion of two oil refineries and the loans will be repaid in future oil production. This is not the first time Venezuela has relied on oil repayment – China is owed $4 billion in oil for a loan and PDVSA owes Japanese companies Mitsui & Co and Marubeni $3.5 billion in oil. Rafael Ramírez, the energy minister of Venezuela, said the money would be used to expand the El Palito and Puerto la Cruz refineries and increase their capacity to process heavy crude. Ramírez said: "Japanese companies are moving very aggressively, they want a position in Venezuela." He did not say which Japanese companies are involved in the deal but Japan is looking for ways to reduce its dependence on Middle East production. In 2007, Japanese refiners brought Venezuelan crude for the first time since the 1980s.

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