[Marxism] Morales government wants to imprison three former presidents over gas contracts

Marvin Gandall marvgandall at videotron.ca
Fri Mar 17 19:36:39 MST 2006

Bolivia charges three former leaders
By Hal Weitzman in Lima
Financial Times
March 17 2006

Bolivia's attorney-general is seeking 30-year prison sentences for three
former presidents on charges of irregularities in contracts signed with
foreign investors in the gas sector, including Repsol, BP, British Gas,
Exxon, Petrobras and Total.

The country's Supreme Court must now decide if there is sufficient evidence
to refer the cases to Congress, which must authorise any trial against
Gonzalo Sánchez de Lozada, Jorge Quiroga and Carlos Mesa. Although it has a
congressional majority, the government lacks the two-thirds vote of both
houses it needs for the trial to go ahead.

The case is the latest example of the deteriorating relations between
foreign investors and the administration of Evo Morales, the radical
leftwing president who took office in January. The allegations were
initially brought to the attorney-general by the Movement to Socialism, Mr
Morales's party.

This week, prosecutors in Santa Cruz arrested Repsol's two most senior
executives in Bolivia on oil-smuggling charges. They were later released,
but the case against a subsidiary of the Spanish energy giant continues. At
the same time, the government is trying to negotiate fresh investment in the
gas sector, the second largest in the region. Political instability and
uncertainty over tax rules have deterred foreign investment in recent years.

Bolivia's powerful left has long claimed that all the contracts signed with
foreign investors when the industry was privatised in the 1990s are
unconstitutional, as they were never ratified individually by the Congress.
Industry groups challenge that, pointing out that the capitalisation of the
entire sector was approved by the legislature.

The most serious charges are against Mr Sánchez de Lozada, now in exile in
the US, and relate to 39 contracts agreed during his two terms of office,
from 1993 to 1997 and 2002 to 2003.

Mr Quiroga, who served as president from 2001 to 2002 and was the main
challenger to Mr Morales in presidential elections last December, is charged
with irregularities relating to four contracts. Mr Mesa, who was forced out
of office last year amid protests demanding gas nationalisation, is cited
for one contract.

The attorney-general is also seeking to prosecute eight former hydrocarbons
ministers and four former executive presidents of state energy company,

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