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The New York Times: Morales Pushes Energy Nationalization


LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) — President Evo Morales vowed to move forward with his campaign to nationalize Bolivia’s oil and gas industry while presiding Saturday over ceremonies marking the transfer of two Brazilian-owned oil refineries to state hands.

Bolivia this week agreed to buy back formerly state-owned refineries from Brazilian state energy company Petroleo Brasileiro SA for $112 million.

On Friday, the government announced it would negotiate the purchase of a majority share in the Bolivian operations of four more foreign companies, as dictated by Morales’ nationalization decree last year.

”We have not yet finished the job,” Morales told a flag-waving crowd at the Guillermo Elder Bell refinery near the eastern city of Santa Cruz. ”There is still work to do.”

Morales was expected to attend a similar ceremony later at the Gualberto Villaroel refinery near Cochabamba.

The four businesses to be targeted are: pipeline company Transredes, part owned by Royal Dutch Shell; the gas exploration company Chaco, owned by the British company BP; gas exploration company Andina, subsidiary of the Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF; and the Hydrocarbons Logistics Company of Bolivia, jointly owned by the German company Oiltanking GmbH and the Peruvian company Grana y Montera SA.

Morales ordered the nationalization of Bolivia’s oil and gas industry in a surprise decree on May 1, 2006. After six months of tense negotiations, the foreign companies were allowed to remain in the country but agreed to sell a controlling interest in their Bolivian operations to the state.

The foreign companies also agreed to pay higher taxes and royalties on their Bolivian earnings. South America’s poorest country has since seen its petroleum revenues double to $1.3 billion in 2006 from $608 million in 2005, according to government figures.

But analysts worry that exerting too much state control could scare off the long-term foreign investment needed for the industry to grow.

Published: May 12, 2007
Filed at 4:39 p.m. ET

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