[Marxism] Bolivia's new Energy Minister

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Tue Jan 24 13:14:09 MST 2006

Bolivia's Energy Minister Led Drive for State Control of Gas

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- Bolivia's new energy minister Andres Solis has 
campaigned for 30 years as a journalist and congressman for state control 
of oil and gas reserves, signaling the new government may clash with 
foreign oil companies.

Solis, who last month accused the local subsidiary of Madrid- based Repsol 
YPF SA and London-based BP Plc of smuggling gas, was sworn in today in La 
Paz as a member of President Evo Morales' 16-man cabinet.

Solis told reporters his first task will be to restart state oil company 
YPFB and register Bolivia's natural gas reserves, South America's largest, 
as state property. Reserves are currently in the hands of private companies 
such as Repsol and Brazil's state-controlled company Petrobras, Bolivia's 
largest foreign investor.

``The presence of a diehard nationalist like Solis is worrisome,'' Eduardo 
Gamarra, director of Latin American & Caribbean Studies at Florida 
International University, said in a telephone interview. ``There will be an 
interesting battle ahead with the oil companies.''

Morales has said since his election last month that he plans to nationalize 
oil and gas reserves. At the same time, he has given foreign operators 
assurances that he won't seize industrial assets or prevent them from 
making a profit.

Morales plans as one of his first acts as president to sign an agreement 
with state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA to help develop 
Bolivia's gas reserves, according to Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez.

'Not Clear'

Talks broke down between the previous government of Eduardo Rodriguez and 
oil companies including Repsol, BP and Courbevoie, France-based Total SA, 
which are demanding the government respect investment guarantee treaties 
after congress raised royalties from 18 to 50 percent last May.

Investment by international energy companies in Bolivia's gas industry fell 
to $135 million last year from $236 million in 2004, according to the 
Bolivian Hydrocarbon Association.

``With all this political posturing, companies are playing wait-and-see,'' 
Gareth Ellis, an Edinburgh-based analyst at Wood Mackenzie Consultants 
Ltd., said in an interview. ``It's not clear what will happen.''



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