Venezuela negotiating payment for oil takeovers

President Hugo Chavez's government said Wednesday it is still negotiating payments for more than 70 oil contractors nationalized two months ago as it moves to reduce costs and assert greater control over Venezuela's oil industry. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, has not yet paid for the companies because it is still auditing them to establish a fair price. But he said PDVSA has absorbed nearly 7,000 of the 8,000 workers affected. Under a law approved by the pro-Chavez National Assembly, the oil contractors could be paid in cash or bonds. Some operate boats or docks on western Lake Maracaibo, while others inject water or gas into oil fields to improve recovery.