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Bolivia Halts Energy Plan

August 14, 2006|Carlos Valdez

LA PAZ, Bolivia — Bolivia says it has suspended the nationalization of its oil and gas industry pending a reorganization of the state petroleum company, which lacks the funds and operating capacity to take over production from foreign companies.

A statement issued Friday by Bolivia's Hydrocarbons Ministry said that the "full effect" of nationalization would be "temporarily suspended, due to the lack of economic resources" of Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB).

The state-owned company has asked the Central Bank of Bolivia for $180 million in financing to help it assume complete control of the country's production facilities.

In addition, the ministry announced plans to restructure and modernize the 70-year-old YPFB, which was partially privatized by former President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in 1997 but renationalized in 2004.

When President Evo Morales nationalized Bolivia's oil and gas industry May 1, seizing the assets of international companies that had long controlled most of Bolivia's considerable oil and gas reserves, he called for YPFB to be restructured within 60 days as a "transparent, efficient and socially controlled" corporation.

Bolivian opposition leaders say Friday's announcement underscores the lack of progress made since Morales' decree.

Nationalization was a "media show," said Fernando Messmer, leader of the conservative party Podemos' congressional delegation.

"The refineries are still in the hands of multinational companies," and many of them are not paying the Bolivian government the 82% share of revenues ordered by Morales, he said.

An association of Bolivian oil and gas companies said that since May 1 more than 30 foreign and domestic petroleum businesses had ceased operations or taken their business to other South American countries.

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