Bolivia Nationalizes
All Energy Companies


LA PAZ (AFP) -- In a victory for leftist President Evo Morales, the Bolivian government has reached agreements with all foreign oil and gas companies operating in the country on ways to nationalize the gas industry.
"With these contracts, we will resolve the problem of social injustices and will avoid public unrest in the future," an elated Morales said in a speech on Saturday. "We will assert out rights to our natural resources without expelling anybody or expropriating any property."
The deals will allow the left-wing government to move ahead with its nationalization plans for the gas industry that is expected to bring in additional revenue to fight poverty.
Bolivia's share of the profits from natural gas exploration will increase from $200 million a year to about $4 billion, according the president.
The announcement came after the government signed deals with Brazilian oil and gas giant Petrobras and Spanish Repsol that control respectively 47% and 27% of the Bolivian gas market.
Petrobras President Sergi Gabrielli told the Brazilian network Globo in an interview broadcast from La Paz that Petrobras "will continue exploring and producing gas in Bolivia for sale in Brazil and abroad."
On Friday, similar accords were signed with France's Total and U.S. firm Vintage.
The deals with Total and Vintage will require them to turn over their oil and gas production to the state energy company YPFB for marketing to local and international buyers.
"With the signing of these accords, we confirm our commitment to the process of nationalization and to the expectations of Bolivian society," said Oil and Gas Minister Carlos Villegas.
"The hydrocarbons are and will be the Bolivian people's," said YPFB head Juan Carlos Ortiz.
Officials said Britain's BP would also be signing a new deal with the government.
Indigenous socialist leader Morales, who assumed office in January, set a six-month deadline in May for an ambitious nationalization of oil and gas resources to recoup energy revenues for the good of the impoverished country.
The president warned that he fully intended to make foreign companies respect his government's nationalization laws regardless of whether they join the deal.
"I want to warn the companies that they must respect our laws and other norms," Morales said, promising full compliance of the Bolivian government's part.
The deals appear to be structured to earn the government a greater share of the earnings from the country's rich natural gas and oil fields.
Total will continue to operate on the Itau field under a new contract which gives the Bolivian state an 82% share. The French company is also pledging to invest $1.15 billion in two other deposits.
Bolivia exports some 25 million cubic meters of gas a day to Brazil, which covers half of the South American powerhouse's gas needs, while Brazil is the largest investor in Bolivia's oil and gas sector and controls about 14.5% of the country's gas reserves.
Bolivian gas reserves are estimated to exceed 1.5 billion cubic meters, which makes them the second largest in the region after Venezuela's.



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