(Adds comment from interior minister in third paragraph.)
Jan. 25 (Bloomberg) -- Venezuelan prosecutor general Carlos Escarra, a long-time ally of President Hugo Chavez and a lawyer overseeing the country’s arbitration disputes, died today from a heart attack. He was 57.
Escarra, who took part in the drafting of the 1999 constitution that was approved following Chavez’s first electoral victory, passed away this morning in the presence of his family, Tarek El Aissami, the interior minister, said today on state television.
“His passing will no doubt grieve all of Venezuela and above all, the revolutionaries of this fatherland,” El Aissami said.
Chavez named Escarra to the country’s top legal position in August and put in him charge of a new arbitration council decreed this year to oversee compensation demands from foreign companies whose assets have been nationalized. He was a lawmaker at the National Assembly for Chavez’s United Socialist Party before then.
Escarra is survived in part by his brother Hermann, who is also a lawyer and maintains a strong anti-Chavez political stance.
Venezuela said today that it presented its formal withdrawal request from the World Bank’s International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes to “protect national sovereignty” and as outstanding cases grow. The Foreign Ministry also said that the 1999 constitution states that all investment disputes should be settled in local courts.
Escarra, in an interview with Union Radio on Jan. 16, said that it would take as many as 15 years to renegotiate bilateral investment treaties with countries allowing them to completely leave the arbitration court.
“Mr. Escarra’s death probably won’t have an impact on Venezuela’s arbitration cases,” Boris Segura, a Latin America strategist at Nomura Securities International Inc. in New York said. “Ultimately, the decision making on this issue is in the hands of President Chavez himself, with some input from Minister of Oil and Energy Rafael Ramirez.”
Exxon Mobil Corp., ConocoPhillips and Owens-Illinois Inc. are among foreign companies seeking compensation at the ICSID for nationalized assets in Venezuela.
--Editors: Daniel Cancel, Robert Jameson
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