* Opposition says move would save $6.7 billion/year
* Capriles, Chavez to face off in Oct. 7 election
By Marianna Parraga
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela, Aug 1 Venezuelan
opposition leader Henrique Capriles said on Wednesday he would
scrap preferential oil deals with foreign allies if he defeats
socialist President Hugo Chavez in an October election to lead
the South American OPEC member.
Chavez has sought to boost his influence abroad by offering
crude deals to nations in Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean
-- Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA was not paid directly for
almost half the crude it pumped last year.
In Capriles' first major speech on his future oil policy,
the 40-year-old said stopping Chavez's deals for crude on credit
or in exchange for other goods would save $6.7 billion annually,
which would be invested in new social programs.
"To have a friend, you don't need to buy him," Capriles said
during a campaign stop a few kilometers from the Puerto La Cruz
refinery. "From ... 2013, not a single free barrel of oil will
leave to other countries."
The youthful former state governor named Belarus, Cuba,
Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Uruguay and Argentina as countries
that would stop receiving oil on preferential terms.
In 2011, PDVSA -- the fiscal motor of Chavez's socialist
policies -- was not paid directly for 43 percent of its barrels
of crude and oil products, rising from 36.5 percent in 2010 and
32 percent in 2009.
Many of the agreements are criticized by his opponents,
especially those signed over the last decade with China, Cuba,
Argentina, Uruguay, and the more than a dozen countries that are
members of Venezuela's Petrocaribe supply program.
Chavez -- who underwent three operations for cancer over the
last year -- is seeking re-election for a third term on Oct. 7
to extend his self-styled socialist "revolution" and is spending
heavily to beat Capriles.
Most opinion polls give him a double-digit lead.
'NO LEGAL CHANGES PLANNED'
Capriles is seeking to tap into pent-up frustration among
many voters weary of high crime, inefficient public services and
high prices. He has been on a months-long "house-by-house tour"
through Venezuela meant to win over Chavez supporters and draw a
comparison with the recovering president.
Capriles -- who frequently cites Norway as an example of a
nation that has used its oil wealth properly to diversify the
economy -- said he planned no legal changes to the oil industry,
although there would be more supervision of the activities of
public and private companies that are partners of PDVSA.
Chavez ordered the nationalization of dozens of crude
projects in 2006 and 2007, but Venezuela has still managed to
attract partners from Russia, Vietnam, Belarus and Malaysia to
join PDVSA-led projects.
Companies including U.S. major Chevron, Spain's
Repsol and Italy's ENI have also been drawn by
the world's biggest crude reserves, which are mostly located in
the Andean country's Orinoco Belt.
Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of Venezuela's
Capriles promised to use the extra resources from stopping
preferential deals, plus money from a planned doubling of
production between 2013 and 2020, to fund programs such as
raising benefits for pensioners, scholarships for mothers of
handicapped children, and education.
"Where will all these resources go? Not to tanks, not to a
hospital in Nicaragua, not as donations," Capriles said.