VENEZUELAN CANDIDATE WOULD OPEN INDUSTRY TO FOREIGN INVESTORS

VENEZUELAN CANDIDATE WOULD OPEN INDUSTRY TO FOREIGN INVESTORS

Venezuelan state-owned industries, including the rich oil sector, could be opened to private local and foreign investment, leading presidential candidate Carlos Andres Perez pledged.

Mr. Andres Perez, who as president nationalized the oil industry in 1976, said the opening would especially involve petrochemical projects and the huge heavy crude and extra-heavy crude deposits in the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt. (Mr. Perez was president from 1974 to 1979.)But it also would include existing industries, including the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, and its operating affiliates, he said.

Mr. Andres Perez, as the candidate of the ruling Social Democratic Party, is the front-runner in Venezuela's presidential contest. The election is

December 4.

Oil accounts for more than 90 percent of Venezuela's export revenues. The fall in oil prices prompted the government to diversify exports and reduce imports.

The oil nationalization law Mr. Andres Perez signed as president a dozen years ago provided an article leaving the doors open for the state to associate with private investors to exploit the industry. Since 1983 it launched an internationalization drive looking for foreign partners in downstream industries abroad.

PdVSA has since associated with oil refining companies in West Germany, Sweden and the United States and sells to its partners around 450,000 barrels of oil a day.

The volume is almost a third of the country's total daily exports.

Eduardo Fernandez, presidential candidate of the rival Social Christian Party, also has said he plans to privatize some industries and allow foreign capital to invest in public sector enterprises, including oil.

Accion Democratica and the Social Christian Party have alternated in the government for the past 30 years.

Venezuela cannot lose control of its basic industries, but it doesn't mean the state will keep the monopoly. There is room for the private sector, Mr. Andres Perez said in a nationally televised interview.

He added the policy would undoubtedly include the sale of shares in state- owned industries and the creation of new shares for sale.

The new investment strategy is designed to increase Venezuela's export capacity, said the former president.