[Marxism] Bolivia's new Energy Minister
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.
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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