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Marketplace: Bedlam in Bolivia: ‘Demonstrators… stormed a plant run by Royal Dutch Shell’

Monday, April 23, 2007

Bolivia’s government has lost control of its populace. Demonstrators from rivaling provinces have forced work stoppages and taken to the streets in an ongoing battle over who gets what share of the nation’s oil and gas revenue.

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: Bolivia is South America’s poorest country. President Evo Morales announced a year ago that he was raising taxes on oil and gas companies to spread the money to the poor. But the Morales government has come across a stumbling block: Two rival provinces are demanding the spoils for themselves. From the Americas Desk at WLRN, Marketplace’s Dan Grech has more.

DAN GRECH: The giant Margarita gas field in southeastern Bolivia produces $45 million in tax revenue. Two neighboring provinces are warring over their share of this windfall.

Demonstrators from both camps have taken to the streets to press their claim. They’ve damaged pipelines at the San Alberto gas field and stormed a plant run by Royal Dutch Shell.

Professor Kevin Healy is with George Washington University.
KEVIN HEALY: They’ve had work stoppages, strikes, mass rallies and there have been some outbreaks of violence. It’s a very tense situation. A local judge ruled in favor of one region’s claims last Thursday. That just fanned the flames.

President Evo Morales tried to step in, and 70 police officers were briefly taken hostage. The administration now admits it’s lost control of the situation.

Gas exports have fallen 20 percent due to the violence.

I’m Dan Grech for Marketplace.

http://marketplace.publicradio.org/shows/2007/04/23/AM200704239.html?refid=0

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