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AFX Europe (Focus); Morales warns he could throw Shell unit out of Bolivia

Published: Feb 08, 2007

LA PAZ (AFX) – Socialist President Evo Morales yesterday threatened to throw a Royal Dutch Shell subsidiary, Transredes, out of Bolivia after demonstrators disrupted natural gas services at the weekend.

Morales said he will order an investigation to determine if Transredes played any direct role in rioting in southeast Camiri which cut off services to four regions for hours before the army ended the protest.

His government says there were losses of half a million dollars.

“We are investigating seriously and if it is shown there was sabotage, I will not hesitate to kick out a multinational that sabotages and conspires against the government,” Morales said.

He claimed the company delayed resuming supplies and alleged it had made excuses for doing so.

Transredes has been in Bolivia since 1996 when the former government of Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada gave it a 40-year contract to manage a gas and oil pipeline.

On Feb 3 some 3,000 demonstrators demanding that their region benefit from Bolivia’s natural gas wealth threatened to take over a gas distribution plant in Camiri, a move that could have disrupted supplies to Brazil.

A local assembly in Camiri, in the eastern province of Santa Cruz, called for a takeover of the local facility belonging to Transredes. The assembly refused to negotiate with Morales.

In May, Morales declared all foreign oil contracts unconstitutional, unnecessarily favorable to the foreign companies and ordered they be renegotiated, a process he called “nationalization.”

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