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AP Worldstream: Bolivian protesters seize gas pipeline to Argentina

Published: Apr 18, 2007

On Tuesday morning some 200 Bolivian soldiers used rubber bullets and tear gas to keep more than two thousand protesters from entering a control station on a pipeline run by Transredes, a subsidiary of Royal Dutch Shell, Yacuiba mayor Carlos Cruz told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

But by early afternoon, the protesters had overwhelmed the soldiers and taken over the pipeline, Cruz said.

Demonstrators are demanding the resolution of a dispute over the Margarita gas field, still in its exploration and development stage but potentially one of Bolivia’s largest.

The field straddles two provinces in the southern state of Tarija, but the boundary between the two provinces is not clearly drawn and each is fighting for a larger share of the field’s eventual royalties.

Tarija State Police Commander Carlos Sigler told Bolivian media that 400 soldiers were deployed in Yacuiba in attempt to take back the pumping station.

Bolivian media reported 10 people had been injured in the morning’s clash.

The Bolivian central government has said the matter should be resolved by Tarija state officials, but the protesters are demanding intervention by La Paz.

A government delegation arrived Tuesday in Yacuiba to negotiate with protesters.

Hydrocarbons Minister Carlos Villegas, in Venezuela Tuesday for a South American energy summit, said the Bolivian government was “protecting the production and transport” of its natural gas to Brazil and Argentina, according to a report from the Brazilian state news agency.

Protesters also were mobilizing in the nearby city of Villamontes, threatening to take over a pipeline delivering natural gas to Brazil, reported the Bolivian radio network Erbol.

Bolivia provides about 26 million cubic meters of gas daily to Brazil and about 5 million cubic meters of gas daily to Argentina. Most of the exports to Argentina travel through the Yacuiba pipeline.

The Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF holds a majority stake in the Margarita field, with the British company BG Group and Argentine company Pan American Energy each owning a minority interest.

Angry Yacuiba residents are calling for Bolivian state energy company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, or YPFB, to relocate one of its offices to their area, which holds most of Bolivia’s natural gas.

Protesters also seek the repeal of an Argentine border-crossing fee and limits on goods brought into that country from Bolivia. Local merchants say the policies have hurt Yacuiba’s growing cross-border trade.

Yacuiba residents briefly shut down the same pipeline last August to protest the border policies. and its sister websites,,,,, and are all owned by John Donovan. There is also a Wikipedia article.

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