EXCLUSIVE-Venezuela to maintain oil industry framework under Maduro
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CARACAS, March 8 - Venezuela will maintain its oil industry tax and legal framework under the leadership of acting President Nicolas Maduro, who was sworn in on Friday, the OPEC nation's oil minister said.
Rafael Ramirez told Reuters that Venezuela would continue to push for a minimum price of $100 per barrel at the next OPEC meeting, and that he did not expect this week's death of President Hugo Chavez to push up crude prices.
"The tax and legal framework were set out clearly by President Chavez," the oil minister said outside the National Assembly, where Maduro was being inaugurated as acting leader ahead of a new presidential election due in weeks.
"While our government is here and the people remain in charge, our oil policy will remain unchanged."
Ramirez said he expected the South American country to increase its oil output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, bringing its total production to 3.5 million bpd.
He said Venezuela's state oil company PDVSA invested $22 billion in 2012, and expected to invest $25 billion this year.
He said foreign energy companies working with PDVSA in Venezuela sent condolences following Chavez's death after a two-year battle with cancer, but had expressed no concerns about the political situation in the country with the world's biggest oil reserves.
(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Gary Hill and Lisa Shumaker)