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Venezuelan oil minister’s claim of increased production greeted with skepticism

An oil pump is seen in Lake Maracaibo, in Cabimas, Venezuela in this file photo.

STRINGER

Venezuela's oil production has increased to near 1.9 million barrels per day after hitting a historic low last year, according to Manuel Quevedo, oil minister and head of state oil firm PDVSA, who vowed 2018 will see output rise to more than 2.4 million barrels per day.

The OPEC country is facing an economic crisis, with millions suffering food and medicine shortages. Venezuela relies on oil for about 95 per cent of export revenue though output has fallen significantly in recent years.

"The year 2018 will be one of recovery, after having touched a historic low. We are now near 1.9 million barrels of oil per day, thanks to the workers," said the minister, a military general, speaking in a television interview.

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He gave few details, sticking to broad aims like eradicating corruption and placing power in workers' hands as a means to revive Venezuela's oil industry.

Venezuela told OPEC it produced 1.834 million barrels per day in November, the lowest figure for the year so far. Mr. Quevedo implied that December's figure, to be published by OPEC on Thursday, would be higher.

Analysts, however, expect the precipitous decline in output to continue, given the country's economic crisis.

Mr. Quevedo blames U.S. sanctions and corruption for the problems, echoing President Nicolas Maduro, who says Venezuela is suffering from an "economic war" waged by Washington.

Critics blame a crumbling oil sector, tight and failing currency and price controls and an authoritarian government doubling down on a decade and a half of inept policy.

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