Spain starts talks with Bolivia over gas resources

2nd May 2006, Comments 0 comments

3 May 2006, MADRID — Spain is to send a delegation to Bolivia for talks after the surprise nationalisation of the Latin American country's gas and oil resources.

3 May 2006

MADRID — Spain is to send a delegation to Bolivia for talks after the surprise nationalisation of the Latin American country's gas and oil resources.

Foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos agreed to send the 'political and technical' team during a telephone conversation with Bolivian President Evo Morales on Wednesday, spokesman Bernadino Leon said.

Morales' nationalization plan seriously affects foreign companies, such as Spanish-Argentine energy company Repsol YPF, which has invested more than EUR 1 billion in Bolivia since 1997.

"What we know does not augur well," said Leon. "But we hope that the process will allow companies to stay in Bolivia in a reasonable manner."

He said the government delegation would travel to Bolivia in the next few days.

Madrid voiced its concern after Morales signed a decree on Monday nationalising the reserves and giving the state "absolute control" over the country's huge resources of  natural gas and lesser ones of oil.

Army troops occupied two refineries of the Brazilian state oil company Petrobras.

The soldiers also occupied 54 gasoline stations around the country that were owned by private Bolivian businessmen.

Now all the foreign energy firms operating in Bolivia will have to deliver all their production to the state-run Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, or YPFB, for distribution and processing and they will have 180 days to adjust their current operating contracts or leave the country.

Among the other foreign companies in Bolivia are British Gas, British Petroleum, the French-Belgian TotalFinaElf, U.S. Panamerican Energy and Exxon Mobil, Argentina's Pluspetrol, Canadian Energy and South Korea's Dong

"The looting of our natural resources by foreign firms is over," said Morales after reading the decree in a town in the southern province of Tarija.

Morales, the country's first Indian president, announced the confiscation of enough of the firms' shares so that YPFB will have more than 50 percent ownership in the companies.

Several diplomatic officials consulted by EFE said the "supreme decree" goes farther than had been predicted and that the foreign oil firms who do not acquiesce in the takeover will have no choice but to resort to international arbitration or leave Bolivia.

The nationalization was announced by Morales at the San Alberto hydrocarbons field, Bolivia's largest, which is exploited by Brazil's Petrobras.

The San Alberto and Sabalo fields, from which are drawn 70 percent of the natural gas exported by Bolivia and which are both operated by Petrobras, are now obliged to turn over 82 percent of their production to YPFB, which will bring La Paz some EUR 238 million in additional revenues in 2007.

Morales said that all the country's energy fields will be occupied by the army's battalion of engineers and by YPFB officials.

He called upon Bolivians to mobilize themselves against "any sabotage attempts by (any) firms" and said that the oil firms' workers who go along with "this change" will be welcomed by the authorities.

[Copyright EFE with Expatica]

Subject: Spanish news

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