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Financial Times: Morales seizes Swiss tin smelter

EXTRACT: The president vented his frustration this week on Transredes, a pipeline operator controlled by Shell, saying he would expel it if investigations revealed it was behind protests in southern Bolivia that shut down gas pipelines for several days.

By Hal Weitzman in Lima
Published: February 10 2007 02:00 | Last updated: February 10 2007 02:00

Evo Morales, the Bolivian president, yesterday signalled his determination to pursue his nationalisation agenda by issuing a decree to take back into state hands a tin smelter owned by a Swiss company.

“Vinto will pass into the hands of the Bolivian state,” said Mr Morales. “I mean to take former state companies back into public ownership.”

Glencore, a Swiss commodity trading house, bought the Vinto tin smelter in 2005 as part of its $100m (€77m, £51m) purchase of tin and zinc producer Compania Minera del Sur from Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada, the former Bolivian president who was forced from office in 2003 and fled to the US.

The announcement came at the end of a challenging week for Mr Morales’s government. He was forced to drop parts of his plan to increase mining taxes after tens of thousands of miners marched to La Paz to demonstrate against the proposal.

His nationalisation of the hydrocarbons sector has also become bogged down.

The president vented his frustration this week on Transredes, a pipeline operator controlled by Shell, saying he would expel it if investigations revealed it was behind protests in southern Bolivia that shut down gas pipelines for several days.

Glencore made no public statement yesterday, but denied it had been contacted by the Bolivian government.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2007

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