Bolivian troops told to seize natural gas fields

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Monday, May 1, 2006

President Evo Morales

Bolivian President Evo Morales has ordered that all foreign-owned natural gas fields be turned over to the national government of Bolivia.

President Morales signed a decree that orders troops to seize the fields "immediately" to ensure gas production. The decree also says that companies have 180 days to sign over their fields or leave the country.

The fields are owned by such companies as the United States' Exxon-Mobil Corporation, Brazil's Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Spanish-Argentine Repsol YPF SA, and Great Britain's BG Group PLC and BP PLC.

"The looting by the foreign companies has ended. We are not a government of mere promises, we follow through on what we propose and what the people demand. We want to ask (the Armed Forces) that starting now, they occupy all the energy fields in Bolivia along with battalions of engineers," said Mr Morales after signing the decree.

"The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources," added President Morales.

One of Morales' vows in his presidential campaign was to "recover" the country's natural resources by renationalizing them. President Morales explained, on a visit to Brazil in January, that renationalising the industry would not mean expelling foreign companies or expropriating foreign property. "Foreign companies have every right to recover investments and make profits, but profits should be balanced".

Bolivia has the second largest supply of natural gas in South America after Venezuela.

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