Bolivia nationalizes electricity companies

3rd May 2010, Comments 0 comments

Bolivia's President Evo Morales has nationalized British, French, and Bolivian-run electric power companies, the president of state power company ENDE said Saturday.

The nationalized companies were identified as Corani, controlled by a subsidiary of France's GDF Suez; Guaracachi, run by British Ruelec PLC; and Valle Hermosa, managed by the Bolivian Generating Group.

"All morning we have been in this takeover process," Roberto Peredo, the president of ENDE said in a speech at the Corani power plant in Cochabamba.

"We have established a presence in the thermal plants of Guaracachi, Valle Hermosa, Carrasco and other smaller ones, and... Corani," he said. The Carrasco power plant belongs to Valle Hermosa.

Morales also signed a decree setting a 120-day period to negotiate the takeover of a fourth power company, the Empresa de Luz y Fuerza Electrica de Cochabamba, which is 80 percent owned by the company's workers.

The workers issued a statement rejecting the takeover and declaring themselves to be in a "state of emergency."

It was not immediately clear how much shareholders of three nationalized companies would receive.

Calling the takeovers "one of the biggest achievements of the cultural revolution," Peredo recalled that Bolivia's state power company was privatized in the 1990s and sold to "neoliberal capitalists for the price of a dead chicken."

Morales used May Day, the international labor day, to announce the measures, the latest in a series extending the state's control over the economy.

Since coming to office in January 2006, Morales has nationalized oil and gas companies, telecommunications and a tin foundry.

But Morales faces growing labor unrest, with workers and teachers staging strikes for higher pay.

With tensions high, Morales decided not to lead a May Day march by the Bolivian Workers Union, once one of his most important backers.

© 2010 AFP

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