LIMA, Peru - Police with submachine guns surrounded the
headquarters of New York-based Belco Petroleum Corp. on Saturday
after the governm ent nationalized the company, froze its bank
accounts and took control of its local assets.
President Alan Garcia announced Friday that the state oil company,
Petroperu, would take charge of Belco's operations in Peru because
the company had refused to accept new conditions for spending its
profits on new exploration and production.
The made several attempts Saturday to reach the company at its
three listed telephone numbers in New York, but there was no answer.
Dante la Gatta, Belco's general manager in Peru, turned over the
company's principal documents to Alfredo Carranza, president of
Petroperu's board of directors, in a brief ceremony Saturday
morningat the company's headquarters in the upper-class neighborhoood
of San Isidro.
""What is important now is that Belco's production continues
flowing normally,'' Carranza said.
La Gatta said Belco was producing 24,000 barrels a day from its
wells, down from 29,000 barrels daily when Garcia canceled its
contract in August.
Garcia also announced that Los Angeles-based Occidental Petroleum
Corp. had reached an agreement in principle under which the company
would give up its lucrative tax breaks in return for access to new
oil fields in Peru's Amazon jungle.
Garcia said Occidental had agreed to invest $267 million in
exploration in new areas and described it as the biggest exploration
program in Peru's history.
He said a consortium of Occidental and the Argentine firm, Bridas,
also would continue to operate in Peru but under terms of its
original contract, which set the tax level for foreign oil
companiesat 68 percent.
The government of former President Fernando Belaunde Terry had
lowered taxes for foreign companies to 41 percent in 1980 under
legislation that required them to reinvest the savings in new oil
exploration in Peru.
Garcia canceled the Belaunde-negotiated contracts with the three
companies on Aug. 28, accusing them of misusing profits and not
reinvesting them as required.
The official news agency Andina said Petroperu's general manager,
Carlos Lizier, took control of Belco assets Saturday in Zorritos.
The town in Talara province, 770 miles northwest of Lima, is
operational headquarters for the 111 offshore production rigs that
Belco operates off the Pacific coast.
Current production by Petroperu and the three American-linked
companies is about 180,000 barrels a day, according to the state oil
company. Petroperu produces 60,000 to 65,000 barrels.
Offshore production is costly and technically complicated, and
government critics have questioned Petroperu's ability to do this. …