[Marxism] Evo Morales' Complete Victory Over Big Oil

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Mon Nov 6 12:16:05 MST 2006

Counterpunch, November 6, 2006
Evo Morales' Complete Victory Over Big Oil
The Progress in Bolivia


I have previously argued that Evo Morales might best be described as a 
genius rather than put into any of the ready-made political categories that 
so regularly distort both news and policy. One main reason for this is his 
combination of principle and pragmatism, leading him into confrontations in 
which he does not attack opposing persons or institutions but instead 
invites them to join him in a struggle for justice. The media regularly 
associate Morales with Chavez, but Chavez is more bully than genius, and it 
is impossible to imagine Morales denouncing Bush as a devil, as Chavez did 
at the United Nations. The other main reason is his extraordinary ability 
to exploit the moment, as he did after his election with his famous striped 
alpaca sweater and late this past summer by waving a coca leaf during his 
speech at the United Nations. Another example, cited in my previous 
article, was his use of troops in the nationalization of oil and gas 
reserves on May 1, 2006, which of course garnered world-wide press 
attention, even though he knew full well that there was no opposing armed 
force and that the nationalization could as well have been accomplished by 
signing decrees in his office in La Paz.

At the time of the nationalization there was a near-consensus among 
analysts that the nationalization would fail. There were two reasons for 
this belief. One was that the opposing parties were the Brazilian 
government and very powerful and well-connected international cartels, who 
had plenty of other assets and were powerful enough to just leave Bolivia 
rather than renegotiate contracts that would give the lion's share of 
revenues to a desperately country that had few alternatives. The other 
reason was that neither the Bolivian ministry of mines nor the national 
petroleum company, YPFB, had the expertise required to run the operation 
that the renegotiated contracts envisaged. Both reasons were based on solid 
knowledge of the details of the industry, so the skepticism was well founded.

The decree of May 1 gave the parties exploiting the hydrocarbon resources 
of Bolivia six months in which to renegotiate contracts with the 
government, after which they would have to leave and their property would 
be subject to confiscation. Bolivia's position in the negotiation was that 
a return on investment of 15% to 18% would be fair and just for the 
drilling and exporting companies, and that the balance of profits and 
revenues should revert to the Bolivian people through the Bolivian 
government. At the time of the decree and the announcement of this demand, 
the popular cry was that the looting must end, and Morales himself referred 
to the process by which mineral resources of Bolivia had been extracted and 
exported for the previous four hundred years as "looting." The slogan was 
very popular, especially among the indigenous people of Bolivia. Thus 
populism and a call for justice were added to the power play of 
nationalization and the threat of confiscation. The stakes were high and 
the outcome uncertain.

full: http://www.counterpunch.org/garver11062006.html



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