TCRLA_Public/030122.mbx        T R O U B L E D   C O M P A N Y   R E P O R T E R

                   L A T I N   A M E R I C A

           Wednesday, January 22, 2003, Vol. 4, Issue 15



BANCO GALICIA: Creditors Expected Accept Debt Deal Soon
REPSOL YPF: To Start Drilling Wells Next Month
* World Bank Set to Grant Argentina Critical Debt Breathing Room
* IMF Updates Transitional Credit Support for Argentina


GLOBAL CROSSING: Hutchison Gets Takeover Approval


BCP: Gloomy, Uncertain Outlook Persists
ELETROBRAS TERMONUCLEAR: Big Debts Prompt State Finances Review


SAESA: Chilean Investments Consolidated, Static for 2003


ELECTROTOLIMA: Faces Dissolution if Rescue Plans Fail

D O M I N I C A N   R E P U B L I C

COGENTRIX: Refuses To Enter Into Renegotiation Talks
UNION FENOSA: May Realign Interest to Market Rates On $200M Loan


GRUPO MEXICO: Monday's Wage Dispute Talks Yield No Solution
SANLUIS CORPORACION: Fourteen Banks Extend $234M Loan
UNEFON: Conflict With Nortel May Hamper Expansion Plans

T R I N I D A D   &   T O B A G O

BWIA: Consultant Blasts Accounting As Similar to Enron's


GALICIA URUGUAY: Analyst Expects June Reopening


PDVSA: To Restart Largest Refinery Soon
PDVSA: Head Calls On Workers To Halt Strike
SINCOR: Strike Drops Output To Ten Percent of Capacity

     - - - - - - - - - -


BANCO GALICIA: Creditors Expected Accept Debt Deal Soon
Negotiations between Argentine bank Banco Galicia and its
international creditors are likely to close in February or March,
Business News Americas indicates, citing a Galicia spokesperson.
According to the spokesperson, Galicia is negotiating debts
totalling US$800 million with about 200 international banks,
whose names were not revealed.

Rafael Ber, a partner at local capital markets consultancy
Argentine Research, suggested it would be "difficult" for the
bank to close the negotiations successfully but in the end the
creditors will accept Galicia's demands to renew maturities and
reduce interest rates.

Banco Galicia is one of the banks that suffered most from the
meltdown of the Argentine financial system at the end of 2001 and
early 2002. In April last year, Galicia was forced to sell a
major part of its loan portfolio for ARS400 million (US$123
million) to shore up its liquidity base.

Banco Galicia, the main asset of Argentine financial group Grupo
Financiero Galicia, reported a third quarter loss in 2002 of
ARS339 million, compared to an ARS119-million loss in 3Q01.

          Phone (54-11) 6329-6430
          Fax (54-11) 6329-6494

          Teniente General Juan D. Peron 456, Piso 3
          1038 Buenos Aires, Argentina
          Phone: (54 11) 4343 7528 / 9475
          Home Page:
          Eduardo J. Escasany,  Chairman and CEO
          Sergio Grinenco, CFO, Banco de Galicia y Buenos Aires

REPSOL YPF: To Start Drilling Wells Next Month
Spanish oil company Repsol YPF is expected to start drilling five
of eight proposed wells in 30 days in the Llancanelo lagoon in
Argentina's Mendoza province after obtaining permit on Friday
from the provincial government, reports Business News Americas.
Mendoza province, which will receive some 60,000 pesos a month in
royalties, blocked the project in 2000 due to environmental
concerns about the impact of drilling on the lagoon's ecosystem.

As a condition of the permit, a team of government inspectors
will monitor the environmental impact of the project, and Repsol
will be required to take measures to protect waterways from being

A Repsol YPF source confirmed that the Company will invest US$7
million (ARS22.4 million) to drill the five wells.

Meanwhile, the Mendoza government refused to give Repsol permit
to drill the other three wells over fears of contamination by
their proximity to subterranean waterways.

         Head Office
         Paseo de la Castellana 278
         28046 Madrid
         Tel  +34 91 348 81 00
         Fax  +34 91 348 28 21
         Telex  48162 RESOLE
         Alfonso Cortina de Alcocer, Chairman
         Jose Vilarasu Salat, Vice Chairman
         Antonio Hernandez, Vice Chairman

* World Bank Set to Grant Argentina Critical Debt Breathing Room
The World Bank may lend US$1 billion to Argentina after the
International Monetary Fund approves a debt referral plan,
Bloomberg reports, citing bank president James Wolfensohn.

Mr. Wolfensohn added that they "will immediately move", once the
plan gets the IMF's approval. He said that the bank is ready to
loan US$600 million through a "head of households" program, and
US$400 million for family assistance and education aid.

The report indicated that the IMF may sign an agreement on
Thursday to allow Argentina to roll over debts coming due within
the next six months.

The country has a US$6.6 billion in debt coming due on August to
the IMF, another US$4.4 billion due to the World Band and the
Inter-American Development Bank (IADB).

In order to be allowed to defer payment to the IMF, the country
is required to achieve a surplus target of 2.5 percent of gross
domestic product and reduce the local currency and other scrip in
circulation, according to local daily Clarin, without revealing
its source of the information.

Another local paper, La Nacion, said Cabinet leader Alfredo
Atanasof had indicated that Argentina may announce another
emergency decree to increase energy rates in the next few days.

The announcement would be the third of its kind as the government
is under pressure from the IMF and the utility companies who say
that the rates hike is badly needed. The courts had blocked
earlier decrees, and this one is not likely to be exempted.
Clarin reported that this decree may be blocked by a national
administrative court as well.

The report indicated that residential power rates may rise 9
percent and gas rates by 7.2 percent, effective in February. A
slightly higher increase may be expected for industries.

Utility companies in the country had suffered from a severe
currency devaluation after the country lost its credit lines to
multilateral lenders due to its defaulting on a record of US$95
billion of bonds in December 2001. Last month, the World Bank had
stopped the funding for social programs after the country failed
to pay US$830.7 million in loans. Argentina also failed to make a
US$680 million payment due to the IADB last week.

* IMF Updates Transitional Credit Support for Argentina
Press Release No. 03/06
January 17, 2003  International Monetary Fund
700 19th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20431 USA

Mr. Horst K”hler, Managing Director of the International Monetary
Fund (IMF), confirmed today [Friday] he is recommending to the
IMF's 24-member Executive Board approval of transitional
financial support for Argentina.

In transmitting to the Executive Board the Argentine authorities'
letter of intent and memorandum of economic policies, which is
included in the IMF staff report for the transitional program in
2003, Mr. K”hler made the following statement:

"The Article IV discussion on January 8 demonstrated the
complexity of the situation in Argentina as we - staff,
management and the authorities - have strived to secure a policy
framework that achieves durable macroeconomic stability, supports
the resumption of growth, and improves the investment climate.
The appraisal in the Article IV consultation report is candid in
stressing that difficulties in securing a political consensus in
Argentina have been a core problem impeding progress toward a
program. That said, we all take note that, in recent months, the
economic situation has somewhat stabilized, though it remains

"The government has now developed a series of policy commitments
that could, if implemented consistently and credibly, build a
bridge to a comprehensive program to be negotiated with a new
government after the elections. These policies provide the basis
for a transitional program that will seek to preserve
macroeconomic stability through the course of the upcoming
elections and reduce the risk of policy reversals. Equally
important, this program will also provide a framework for the
multilateral development banks to support social programs in
Argentina, which are key to protect the vulnerable groups from
the adverse effects of the crisis.

"But even a transitional program involves exceptional risks to
the Fund which are outlined with appropriate care and depth in
the staff report. They relate to the fragility of the
macroeconomic policy framework and the political challenges to
implementation. In considering this request, it is important that
the Board weigh these risks carefully, and their implications for
Argentina, the region, and for the Fund itself.

"I have decided to recommend the approval of this arrangement as
a demonstration of a good faith effort of the international
community in favor of the people of Argentina. I would also like
to assure the Argentine people that the Fund will do its part to
make this program succeed. The key to a durable solution to the
present difficulties lies, of course, in the actions that
Argentina takes. I hope that our contribution will catalyze a
cohesive effort on the part of the Argentine authorities, the
provinces, legislators and civil society to fully implement this
transitional program."

          Public Affairs
          Tel: 202-623-7300
          Fax: 202-623-6278

          Media Relations
          Tel: 202-623-7100
          Fax: 202-623-6772


GLOBAL CROSSING: Hutchison Gets Takeover Approval
Hong Kong mobile carrier Hutchison Telecom received permission
from the European Commission to go ahead with its plans to
purchase bankrupt communications network, Global Grossing,
according to Reuters. The required permission was granted on

Global Crossing, based in Bermuda, filed for bankruptcy
protection in January last year, facing total debts of US$12.4
billion. The company, which was founded in 1997 and has a fiber-
optic network linking 27 countries, was sold to Hong Kong's
Hutchison Whampoa Ltd and Singapore Technologies Telemedia Pte in

The EC approved the deal after the company's customers and rivals
offered no complaints. Earlier this month, the Bermuda Supreme
Court also approved of the deal.

According to the report, the new company will effectively
discharge the debts by giving cash to some creditors and shares
in the new company to others. Some lenders, such as banks, are
expected to receive at least 20 percent back in cash.

          Becky Yeamans, +1-974-410-5857,

          Tisha Kresler, +1-973-410-8666

          Ken Simril, +1-310-385-5200


BCP: Gloomy, Uncertain Outlook Persists
The future of BCP still hangs in the air. According to Business
News Americas, the shareholders of BSE are in talks with an
undisclosed party to sell their interests in BCP's sister
company. Local media have long singled out Telecom Americas,
controlled by Mexico's America Movil, as buying its way into Sao
Paulo through BCP.

However, there is no indication that BCP is affected by the BSE
talks. Bellsouth and Verbier Communications, a unit of local
Banco Safra controls both BCP and BSE, also known as BCP

BCP defaulted on US$430 million of debt and BSE is having trouble
making payments on US$76 million, after a 37% decline in the real
this year drove up financing costs for Brazilian companies.

          Rua Fl›rida, 1970 4o andar
          Sao Paulo - SP
          Tel: 55 11 5509-6428
          Fax: 55 11 5509-6257
          Home Page:

          1155 Peachtree St. NE
          Atlanta, GA 30309-3610
          Phone: 404-249-2000
          Fax: 404-249-5599
          Home Page:
          Investor Relations
          Phone (US):    800.241.3419
          Fax: 404.249.2060

ELETROBRAS TERMONUCLEAR: Big Debts Prompt State Finances Review
The Brazilian government said it would review the finances of
state nuclear power company Eletrobras Termonuclear
(Eletronuclear) after the Eletrobras' unit incurred debts
totaling BRL1 billion.

"We believe it is reasonable to remunerate nuclear power in line
with what is reasonable. We cannot let a company operate in the
red, which would not make sense," Eletrobras President Luiz
Pinguelli said, adding that the federal government may have to
inject resources to refinance the Company.

According to the executive, the price of power from the two
nuclear reactors, Angra 1 and 2, does not reflect the real cost
and must be raised.

Around 25% of the power produced at Angra is consumed in Rio de
Janeiro state, but the impact of raising its prices for consumers
would be small. Power prices are prorated throughout the
Brazilian grid, where nuclear power accounts for 2,000MW, or just
3% of Brazil's installed capacity, estimated at around 70,000MW.


SAESA: Chilean Investments Consolidated, Static for 2003
Jorge Brahm, the CEO of Chilean power distributor Saesa, said
that the utility will invest US$50 million to consolidate its
investments in the Chile this year, relates Business News

"We will not make any new investments in 2003, but we will
maintain our operations at their current level," Brahm said.

As for Saesa's 2002 results, "our operating results should be
better than the year before, but our bottom line has been hit by
debt refinancing in the last quarter," Brahm said.

Saesa, after successfully launching a bond issue on the local
market last week, was expected to pre-pay a US$150 million loan
on January 21. The loan was originally due October 18, but was
extended to November 8 and then to April 4.

The Company will also pay a US$35 million long-term loan held
with Banco Santander in the first week of February.

          Gerencia y Administracion Zonal de Osorno
          Bulnes 441, Osorno
          Telefono: (64) 206400
          Fax: (64) 206209 - Casilla: 21 -0


ELECTROTOLIMA: Faces Dissolution if Rescue Plans Fail
Colombia's mines and energy ministry, the public services
regulator and regional and municipal authorities only have two
weeks to come up with a plan to bail out Tolima department
utility Electrotolima. Colombian President Alvaro Uribe has
threatened to dissolve Electrotolima in order to create a more
efficient and reliable company, relates Business News Americas.

"I assume the political responsibility of liquidating
Electrotolima in exchange for creating a new company that will
lower costs and adequately serve the people of Tolima," Uribe
said during a visit to department capital Ibagu‚.

"As it is today, the company is not viable," Uribe said. "For
this reason the workers and department authorities have to make
an effort that allows the company, or a new one, to be
competitive in offering an adequate service to inhabitants," he

D O M I N I C A N   R E P U B L I C

COGENTRIX: Refuses To Enter Into Renegotiation Talks
Dominican Republic President Hipolito Mejia is urging Compania
Electrica de San Pedro de Macoris, which operates the Cogentrix
power plant, to enter into renegotiation talks in connection with
its US$39-million debt. However, the Company refuses to
cooperate, saying that it won't open talks unless the government
pays the debt.

The plant is currently shut down because the terms of the
contract, signed during the Fernandez government and approved by
Congress, make it less costly for the state than to have it

Meanwhile, former Dominican ambassador in Washington, Roberto
Saladin, suggested to the Listin Diario that the Dominican
government hire the best lawyers available to take Cogentrix to
court, thereby avoiding a downgrade on the country's credit risk

In a DR1 Daily News report, Mr. Saladin explained that Cogentrix
secured the approval of the PRD-majority Congress, which lent it
the unconditional and irrevocable governmental guarantee for the
payment of the loans. These loans were secured from European
organizations such as Creditanstalt fur Wiederaufbau (KFW), ECGD
and WestLB, which are now urging the government to meet the
contractual obligation following Cogentrix's default on the debt.

Ambassador Saladin explained that the credit insurance agencies
and the creditors had recognized from the start that habitual
solvency conditions were not being met in the Cogentrix deal and
therefore agreed only to finance the plant if Congress would
issue a government guarantee.

UNION FENOSA: May Realign Interest to Market Rates On $200M Loan
Union Fenosa International, which has come under attack by the
Dominican Republic government for inefficiency, could reduce its
interest rates on a US$200 million loan to their Dominican

DR1 Daily News relates that Antonio Pantoja, the vice president
of Union Fenosa International, announced that the company is
willing to reduce its interest rates on the loan from the current
24% to 12% and then to 9%. The reduction in interest accrued
would represent savings of US$42 million for the duration of the

Critics contend that the company lent itself the money at 24% at
a time financing was available to the mother company from other
sources at less than 5%.


GRUPO MEXICO: Monday's Wage Dispute Talks Yield No Solution
Grupo Mexico's last-ditch attempt to prevent a strike at its
Cananea complex failed after workers rejected an agreement over
2000 wage revisions and other matters, reports Dow Jones. The
Mexican copper mining concern met with the officials of the union
on Monday to settle the conflict but the union ditched the
Company's offer.

The National Mining, Metallurgical & Similar Workers Union is
demanding an increase in wages that was supposed to have been
granted in 2000. Aside from that, the union is also demanding
productivity bonuses and the reinstatement of 10 workers it said
were unfairly dismissed by the company.

"There has been no economic proposal on the part of the company
up to now," a union spokesman told Reuters. "They have agreed to
accept back five of the workers but not the remaining five."

Grupo Mexico, one of the world's three largest copper producers,
has been mired in cash problems amid poor copper prices and
billion-dollar debts following a 1999 purchase of a rival.

The Company reached an agreement in early December to reschedule
the US$879-million in bank and bond debt held by Grupo Minero
Mexico SA, the unit that handles the Company's Mexican mining

          Avenida Baja California 200,
          Colonia Roma Sur
          06760 M,xico, D.F., Mexico
          Phone: +52-55-5264-7775
          Fax: +52-55-5264-7769
          Home Page:
          Germ n Larrea Mota-Velasco, Chairman and CEO
          Xavier Garca de Quevedo Topete, President and COO
          Alfredo Casar P,rez, COO, Ferrocarril Mexicano
          Daniel Ch vez Carre n, COO, Industrial Minera M,xico
          Daniel Tellechea Salido, VP and Administration and
                                      Finance  President

SANLUIS CORPORACION: Fourteen Banks Extend $234M Loan
Sanluis Corporacion SA, the Mexican supplier of suspension parts
and brakes to General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., will now
be able to complete a debt restructuring that began in September
2001. According to Bloomberg, the Company, which has defaulted on
foreign debt in the past two years, said it obtained a US$234-
million loan from 14 banks, whose names were not disclosed. The
loan is secured by Sanluis' suspension-parts unit.

Earlier, the Company renegotiated terms of a Eurobond and
commercial paper worth US$291 million and US$34 million in other
debt at its brakes unit.

SanLuis Corporacion trades on the Mexican Stock Exchange under
the board code MSE: SANLUIS. Its Auto-Part Division, SANLUIS
Rassini, manufactures suspension and brake components and
systems, and it is a leading company in suspensions in North
America and mercosur. Over 85% of SanLuis Corporacion's
consolidated sales are made abroad and denominate in dollars.

CONTACT:  SANLUIS Corporacion, S.A. de C.V.
          Hector Amador
          Tel. +11-5255-5229-5838
          Fax. +11-5255-5202-6604
          Web site:

UNEFON: Conflict With Nortel May Hamper Expansion Plans
Financial analysts warned that Unefon's current legal proceedings
with Nortel Networks of Mexico could derail Unefon's expansion
plans, reports Mexico City daily el Economista.

The disagreement between the two firms began in late August when
Unefon failed to pay US$6 million in interest on the supply of
transmission equipment valued at US$350 million, leading Nortel
to cancel the package valued at US$700 million. Nortel then
proceeded to cancel its partnership with the Mexican firm, which
prevented Televisi˘n Azteca from separating its capital from the
telecommunications company.

Just recently, the conflict escalated when Unefon asked Mexican
prosecutors to open a criminal investigation of individual
lawyers at Chicago-based law firm Baker & McKenzie, which is
representing Nortel.

Baker & McKenzie, which has a team of 150 attorneys in Mexico,
slammed Unefon's petition, saying it was ungrounded, and that it
considered it an "an abuse of the legal system."

Unefon has a 5% share of Mexico's cellular phone market with more
than 1.2 million subscribers. Mexican broadcaster TV Azteca SA
owns 46.5% of Unefon, while the Saba family holds another 46.5%
and 7% floats on the Mexican Stock Exchange.

CONTACT:  Unefon S.A. De CV
          Head Office
          Puriferico Sur 4119 Fuentes del
          Mexico 14141
          Tel: +52 8582 50000
          Fax: +52 8582 5052
          Web site:
          Engr Moises M. Saba, Chairman
          Pedro L. Padilla, Vice Chairman

          Nortel Networks Corp.
          Head Office
          Suite 100
          8200 Dixie Road
          L6T 5P6
          Tel  +1 905 863-0000
          Fax  +1 905 863-8423
          Lynton R. Wilson, Chairman
          Frank A. Dunn, President & Chief Executive

T R I N I D A D   &   T O B A G O

BWIA: Consultant Blasts Accounting As Similar to Enron's
Financial consultant Ved Seereeram noted that some of BWIA's
accounting methods seem to resemble the methods of now bankrupt
company, Enron, to hide loans, the Barbados Nation relates.
The consultant believes that minor investors were lured into
investing in an Initial Public Offering that should not have been
released in the market.

Mr. Seereeram said that educated investors would have been more
wary in taking up the IPO offered in December 2000. He added that
there are inconsistencies and inexplicable entries in the

In 1998, the Company posted US$9.037 billion in profits on total
revenue of US$225.1 billion with total operating costs on
US$214.2 billion. In the following year, profits dropped to
US$3.68 billion despite an increase in the revenue at US$239.04
billion, with operating costs at US$237.05 billion. In 2000, net
profits went further down to US$1.17 billion although total
revenue went up to US$256.84 billion while operating costs
increased slightly to US$256.27 billion.

"What is consistent in these accounts are huge numbers jumping up
all over the place. I would describe them as erupting accounts;
there are huge amounts appearing and disappearing," he said.

Among such discrepancies are the figures for Restructuring and
Miscellaneous Income. The company's 2000 prospectus forecasted it
to be US$38.997 million, but the actual income was only US$20.516

During the same year, the company predicted receivables and pre-
payments to be US$36.367 million, but the value was recorded at

In the Consolidated Income and Expenditure, the company had
declared a profit of US$23.030 million in 1999. Mr. Seereeram
noted that an entry called "others" was entered under this.
Without the said entry, a loss of about US$13.872 would have been
the final result.

Mr. Seereeram said, "These are unusual entries. As an analyst I
would have discounted this entry and said that the company made a

The article indicated that in the 2000 projected balance sheet
deferred charges was US$15.059 million. However, the actual
deferred charges figure in the 2000 balance sheet was US$0.

He noted that the "unusual" items in the company's books were
marginally offsetting losses.

Seereeram noted other irregularities, such as a US$15.024 million
recorded as "profit on sale of investment". Accounting papers
reveal that the sale of the shares had a "put option".

"The good thing about a put option," said Seereeram, "is that you
don't have to record a loan on your accounts and you can actually
record a profit."

The report also indicated that BWIA's tangible net worth, based
on the 1999 accounts was roughly US$2 million. This figure is
quite far from the figure in the prospectus, which said that the
company's net worth shall not be less than US$18 million on that
year. If these were true, then according to Seereeram, the
company has indications of insolvency.

Seereeram believes that the company was already bankrupt before
the September 11 attacks, which was largely blamed for the losses
of carriers around the world.

According to him, the real issue is the question of why the IPO
was not underwritten. In his analysis, the reason for this was
that commercial investors could see that the IPO was likely to

Robert Mayers, managing director of CMMB (Caribbean Money Market
Brokers) Securities Ltd, echoed Mr. Seereeram's question of how
the IPO got to the market. He said, "It is very irresponsible
what transpired and it is very sad that something like this came
to market."

Mr. Mayers shares Mr. Seereeram's belief that educated investors
did not take up the controversial BWIA IPO, seeing that it was
bound to fail.

He added, "No financial institution would agree to underwrite the
issue as it was almost a certainty that it would fail."

          Phone: + 868 627 2942
          Home Page:
          Conrad Aleong, President and CEO (Trinidad)
          Beatrix Carrington, VP Marketing and Sales (Barbados)
          Paul Schutz, CFO (Trinidad)


GALICIA URUGUAY: Analyst Expects June Reopening
Rafael Ber, a partner at local capital markets consultancy
Argentine Research, believes Banco Galicia will be able to reopen
its Uruguayan subsidiary Banco Galicia Uruguay by June this year,
relates Business News Americas. The unit was suspended and
intervened by the Uruguayan central bank in mid-February 2002
after losing US$500 million in deposits between December 2001 and
January 2002.

According to a Galicia spokesperson, the Argentine parent plans
to reopen the subsidiary but the central bank has said it would
demand a capital injection and a new business plan from Galicia
before giving its stamp of approval.

The main obstacle to reopening the bank in Uruguay was a
government ordered deposit freeze, but Galicia's proposed deposit
return plan has been approved by local authorities and the bank
has the financial strength to meet the central bank's other
demands, Ber noted.

          World Trade Center
          Luis A. Herrera 1248 Piso 22 Montevideo
          Tel.:(+598-2) 628-1230


PDVSA: To Restart Largest Refinery Soon
Paraguana, the largest refinery of Venezuela's state oil company
Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PdVSA) may be restarted over the
weekend, Platts said on its Web site.

Paraguana refinery manager Ivan Hernandez was cited revealing
that the refinery may start processing an average of 50,000
barrels of crude for producing gasoline, gasoil and kerosene.

The national strike that had hit the country since last month has
forced the company to shut down operations at the refinery. Oil
production, which generates about 43 percent of the government's
income, was greatly reduced.

Venezuela, the fifth-largest oil producer in the world, is also
the lone Latin American member of OPEC.

PDVSA: Head Calls On Workers To Halt Strike
Ali Rodriguez, president of Venezuela's state oil company,
Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., urged striking workers to return to
work on Monday, the Associated Press reports. He added that the
objectives set by the strikers are "unreachable". Mr. Rodriguez'
plea was aired over state television station Venezolana de

"I urge you as citizens, appealing to whatever reserves of
rationality there may be, to stop these activities, stop this
campaign that affects the whole country," he said.

The strike, which started in December 2 last year, seeks the
resignation of president Hugo Chavez, or have him call early
elections. Since then, the country's oil production, which
generates approximately one-half of the government's revenue, had
been reduced significantly. Venezuela is the fifth-largest oil
exporter in the world, producing 3 million barrels per day before
the strike.

According to the government, oil production is now down to
800,000 barrels a day but opposition leaders say the figure is
only 400,000. The country's president previously fired more than
1,000 workers out of the estimated 35,000 who joined the strike.

Meanwhile, Mr. Chavez accused strike leaders of using
unconstitutional means to seek his ouster. Because of this, that
the government may walk out on negotiations, warned Mr. Chavez in
his weekly television show.

The Organization of American States sponsored negotiations
between the government and the opposition, which began in
November, but the conflict remains unresolved. Six countries --
Brazil, Chile, Mexico, Portugal, Spain and the U.S. -- have begun
an initiative called "Friends of Venezuela" to help the talks.

Meanwhile, Jimmy Carter a Former President of the United States
and Nobel Peace Price Awardee is said to attend negotiations
between on Monday. Mr. Carter arrived in the country last
Wednesday, and was scheduled to meet with Mr. Chavez and Cesar
Gaviria, secretary-general of the Organization of American

Mr. Rodriguez was appointed by Mr. Chavez and is reportedly one
of his major allies.

CONTACT:  Petroleos de Venezuela SA
          Head Office
          Apdo 169
          Avenida Libertador La
          Tel  +58 212 708 4111
          Fax  +58 212 708 4661
          Ali Rodriguez Araque, Chairman
          Jorge Kamkoff, Joint Vice Chairman
          Jose Rafael Paz, Joint Vice Chairman

SINCOR: Strike Drops Output To Ten Percent of Capacity
Production of light synthetic crude at Venezuelan heavy crude
project Sincor sunk to just a fraction of the US$5-billion
project's normal capacity (prior to the national strike). Sincor,
which is operated by French oil company TotalFinaElf, is
currently producing just 19,000 barrels/day, way below the
project's 200,000b/d capacity, TotalFinaElf spokesperson Sarah
Wachter told Business News Americas.

The 19,000b/d production is being supplied to state oil company
PDVSA, which is using the output in its own pipeline network, Ms.
Wachter said. Sincor's operations were shut down in mid-December
following the start of Venezuela's national strike on December 2.

Sincor is one of four heavy crude upgrade projects in Venezuela.
The others are Petrozuata, Cerro Negro and Hamaca. TotalFinaElf
has a 47% stake in Sincor, PDVSA owns 38%, and Norway's Statoil


S U B S C R I P T I O N   I N F O R M A T I O N

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