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Foreign Companies Continue Pulling Expat Workers From Venezuela Amidst Unrest

Statoil and Repsol have pulled out more of the companies’ expatriate workers based in Venezuela due to the unrest in the South American country, according to a new report by Reuters.

The two companies, as well as Chevron, hold minority stakes in 40 projects with state-run Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA. Caracas depends on the limited revenues it gains from the projects to keep the government functional in this challenging financial period.

Venezuela is South America’s largest oil exporter, but high extraction costs and low barrel prices have cut deeply into the nation’s government revenues, making it difficult to import much-needed foreign goods and medical supplies.

Reuters reports that over a dozen people have lost their lives in clashes between police forces and protestors against leftist President Nicolas Maduro over the past few days. Others have died during midnight looting incidents.

Maduro has accused demonstrators of plotting to topple his government. So far, none of the nations’ oil fields – located far from city centers – have been affected by the strife, though National Guard officers have fired tear gas in the capital, where several multinational oil companies base their operations.

Norway’s Statoil has withdrawn between 5-6 foreign workers from Venezuela. The firm’s website said it employs 30 people in the country, though it is unclear how many of them are locals.

Related: Low Oil Prices Force Abu Dhabi To Sell U.S. Assets

Spanish Repsol and Chevron did not respond to requests for comment by Reuters.

Venezuela avoided default for another year after authorizing a $2.2 billion payment on bonds of the state-run oil company set to mature on April 14th, according to a report by Rigzone.

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"If Maduro needed an excuse to declare a default, the current explosion in social unrest would have been the perfect one," said Francisco Rodriguez, the chief economist at Torino Capital in New York. "The fact that he didn’t use it suggests that the government continues to be willing to go to very great lengths to honor its international commitments."

By Zainab Calcuttawala for Oilprice.com

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