Venezuela's new constitution gives rise to new legal issues on oil, gas investment

Whatever broader concerns may exist regarding the constitution of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela, investors in the Venezuelan oil and gas business may feel agreeably surprised.In our view, the constitution approved by the people on Dec. 15, 1999, is somewhat more favorable to private oil and gas investors than the constitution of 1961.On the other hand, the new constitution gives rise to its own new issues of legal interpretation.Hydrocarbon ownershipArticle 12 of the new Venezuelan constitution states that fields "of minerals and hydrocarbons" existing in the national territory, in the territorial sea, in the exclusive economic zone, and on the continental shelf belong to the repub...

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