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Published on Gold Anti-Trust Action Committee (http://www.gata.org)

Deal with operators completes Bolivia's oil and gas nationalization

By cpowell
Created 2006-10-29 15:32

By Dan Keane
Associated Press
Sunday, October 29, 2006

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20061029/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/bolivia_nationaliz... [1]

President Evo Morales completed his ambitious oil and gas nationalization plan early Sunday with the last-minute signing of contracts allowing several international companies to continue operating in Bolivia under state control.

Just after a midnight Saturday deadline to wrap up the nationalization talks, Morales joined representatives of eight companies for the signing ceremony in the capital of La Paz, achieving one of his 9-month-old government's central goals.

Among the companies were two affiliates of Brazilian state energy giant Petrobras, Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF and Repsol's Bolivian subsidiary, Andina. The French company Total SA and the U.S.-based Vintage Petroleum signed nationalization deals Friday.

Morales nationalized the South American country's oil and gas industry on May 1, giving foreign companies 180 days to sign new deals ceding majority control of their Bolivian operations or leave the country.

At the ceremony, Morales said the petroleum nationalization would be only the first step in his campaign to recover control of Bolivia's natural resources. Earlier this month, he announced plans to bring Bolivia's mines under state control.

"Bolivia will not be as it was before, a beggar state with many social problems," Morales said. "We will continue in this path of recovering our natural resources, not only the hydrocarbons but also the minerals and the non-metallics, and all nonrenewable natural resources that belong to the Bolivian people."

The president commended the international companies for becoming "partners" in Bolivia's future.

"As we have said before, we are looking for good partners," Morales said. "We need partners to help us resolve the social problems of our country."

Petrobras is Bolivia's largest single foreign investor and the largest player its natural gas industry. Its long-running and often contentious talks with Morales' government was key to the nationalization process.

With those tensions in the past, Morales spoke warmly of Bolivia's biggest neighbor.

"As Bolivians we recognize that Brazil is the leader of the region, and that's why its businesses are so important to our country," he said. "We are obligated to live with Brazil in a marriage without divorce, because we both need each other."

Morales also endorsed his ally Brazilian President Lula Inacio da Silva on the eve of his bid for re-election in Brazil's presidential runoff. "I believe in my friend Lula," he said.

While Petrobras is the largest producer of Bolivian gas, Repsol YPF and its subsidiary Andina control the largest share of Bolivia's known gas reserves, with 35 percent. Petrobras controls 16 percent and Total SA 14 percent.

All three are involved in the massive San Alberto and San Antonio gas fields in southern Bolivia, which together produce some 70 percent of the country's total natural gas output.

Under the terms of Morales' nationalization decree, the state raised its share of the revenues from the two giant fields from 50 percent to 82 percent, while taking only a 60 percent share at Bolivia's minor deposits.

The signings represent a political victory for Morales, who had been for months dogged by criticism over the slow and uncertain progress.

The signing ceremony took place in the same hall where former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada privatized Bolivia's gas industry in 1996. In the decade since privatization, Petrobras has invested some $1.5 billion in the exploration and production of Bolivian natural gas.

Demands to re-nationalize Bolivia's natural gas reserves were at the heart of violent 2003 protests that chased Sanchez de Lozada into U.S. exile and catalyzed the indigenous political movement that eventually propelled Morales to power.

The new contracts came a week after Morales and Argentine President Nestor Kirchner signed a $17 billion deal significantly expanding Bolivia's natural gas exports to Argentina over the next 20 years.

Morales said the nationalization plan and the Argentine deal would provide Bolivia some $1 billion in revenues this year and up to $4 billion annually in four years' time.

The other companies signing deals Sunday were Argentine company Pluspetrol, British Gas Bolivia Corp., British Gas subsidiary Chaco, and Matpetrol, a Bolivian company that operates internationally through its parent, Equipetrol.

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Source URL:
http://www.gata.org/node/4467