How do you solve a problem like Venezuela?

Oil giants with heavy-oil production operations in Venezuela’s oil-rich Orinoco River basin generally aren’t commenting on Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez’s most recent takeover threats.
But ConocoPhillips CEO Jim Mulva happened to be a keynote speaker opening a two-day conference today highlighting Rice University’s release of a massive study on national oil companies. Mulva shared his concerns about his company’s Venezuela operations with a gaggle of reporters just days after Chavez said he had decreed a law that PDVSA, his country’s government-controlled oil company, would take majority control of Orinoco projects by May 1.
Mulva called the situation a challenge for ConocoPhillips and all other international oil companies with Orinoco operations because of the size and scope of those investments. And May 1 doesn’t give the companies much time to talk directly to the company and government.
Mulva says “it’s important for us to start our discussions with the ministry and PDVSA,” but it would be premature for him to speculate on the outcome.
PDVSA has long been a minority partner in Orinoco projects now controlled by ConocoPhillips, Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, France’s Total and Norway’s Statoil. Press reports quote Chavez as saying he doesn’t want to kick those companies out, but he wants PDVSA to control their operations.