Bolivia nationalizes fuel transport company

June 3rd, 2008 - 2:55 am ICT by IANS  

DPA
La Paz, June 3 (DPA) The Bolivian government Monday nationalized the fuel transport company Transredes, a subsidiary of British firm Ashmore and the Anglo-Dutch company Shell. In the presence of his Cabinet Monday, President Evo Morales signed the decree that stipulated the handover of Transredes to the state company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB).

It was the latest in a series of expanding state takeovers of private sectors of the economy being carried out by Morales to finance the improvement of the lot of the country’s empoverished indigenous majority.

The policies have provoked resistance in some of the wealthier provinces, as happened Sunday when two provinces passed non-binding referendums seeking more autonomy from the central government.

In the presence of his Cabinet Monday, Morales signed the decree that stipulated the handover of Transredes to the state company Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB).

The ceremony took place in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, 900 km east of La Paz. Transredes, headquartered in Santa Cruz and which has been operating in Bolivia for 12 years, was initially a subsidiary of US giant Enron.

“On May 1, 2006, we launched the historic decision of basing the sovereignty and independence of the country on our natural resources,” said Energy Minister Carlos Villegas.

The Morales government changed Bolivia’s energy policy two years ago, sigining new contracts with 12 foreign energy firms that had been active in the Andean country since 1996.

On May 1 the authorities announced deals with subsidiaries of the Spanish company Repsol-YPF and with British Petroleum, but none with Ashmore-Shell over Transredes, which controls all gas pipes in Bolivia.

Villegas said the deadline for a deal with Transredes stockholders expired on May 30. He added that Shell will get $48 for each of its shares, but noted that there was no such agreement with Ashmore.

He also complained that the former leadership of Transredes made a serious mistake Saturday, by handing over the documents on the planned enlargement of the Chaco gas pipe to Tarija Governor Mario Cossio, a declared opponent of Morales.

Villegas said YPFB is now set to undertake the enlargement of the Carrasco-Cochabamba gas pipe, to guarantee the supply of natural gas to western Bolivia.

In Sunday’s referendum, the Bolivian provinces of Beni and Pando favoured more autonomy. Morales has called the votes illegal, as he did the vote last month in Santa Cruz. Another province, Tarija, is to hold as similar vote on June 22.

Morales was elected in 2005, the first president of indigenous descent in the country’s history.
DPA

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