[Marxism] FW: Energy company chiefs flee Bolivian courts (Financial Times)
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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
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ministers were among those who originally made the accusations
"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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