[Marxism] FW: Energy company chiefs flee Bolivian courts (Financial Times)

Richard Fidler rfidler at cyberus.ca
Sat Mar 11 08:43:42 MST 2006

Energy company chiefs flee Bolivian courts
By Hal Weitzman in La Paz
Published: March 10 2006 20:49 |
Last updated: March 10 2006 20:49

Repsol's top two executives in Bolivia were in hiding on Friday 
after a judge ordered their arrest on charges of oil smuggling and 
tax evasion.

Prosecutors in the south-eastern city of Santa Cruz raided the 
offices of Andina, a subsidiary of the Spanish energy group, on 
Thursday and seized documents. However, they were unable to find 
Julio Gavito and Pedro Sánchez, who were ordered to be detained 
after they failed to appear in court.

The arrest warrant marks a further deterioration in relations 
between foreign investors and the administration of Evo Morales, 
who won a landslide victory in December on a pledge to nationalise 
Bolivia's gas reserves, the second largest in the region.

The government says it cannot interfere in judicial matters, but 
many in the sector are sceptical of that stance, since senior 
ministers were among those who originally made the accusations 
against Repsol.

"Officially the judiciary is completely independent from the 
government, but that isn't really so," said Carlos Alberto López a 
former hydrocarbons minister who is now a spokesman for the 
industry. "The public sector wants to please the new 
administration, and the best way to do so is to attack oil 

Bolivia's customs agency accuses Andina of smuggling 230,000 
barrels of oil worth $9.2m to Argentina and Chile in 2004 and 
2005. Antonio Brufau, Repsol president, denied the allegations 
during a visit to Bolivia last week. He said if the company had 
made a mistake, it would pay a fine.

Bernardino Leon, Spain's foreign secretary, said the affair was "a 
huge concern for Spain" and the arrest warrant was "unjust".

Mr López said the development could harm Bolivia's ability to 
attract fresh investment. "We have a situation in which oil 
company executives are going underground to avoid being taken to 
jail," he said. "It would be difficult for any potential foreign 
investors to expose their staff to this kind of thing."

Mr Morales, Bolivia's left-wing president, is to meet Condoleezza 
Rice, US secretary of state, in Valparaíso today, while the two 
are in Chile for the inauguration of Michelle Bachelet.

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