02 May 2006

Chavezism spreads: Bolivia nationalizes gas fields

Under a May Day decree, Bolivian president Evo Morales has seized control of at least one refinery in the South American country and ordered oil and gas companies operating in Bolivia to sell at least 51% interest in the each company in Bolivia.

Soldiers seized some property and hung banners that read "Nationalized: property of Bolivians". [Photo: Agence France Press]

Government auditors will assess the value of the majority equity position.

As well under the decree, Bolivian state royalties on two of the largest fields will rise from 50% to 82% while the government will claim 60% royalties on the remaining fields.

During his speech announcing the decree, Morales said the newly nationalized oil and gas companies will provide jobs for indigenous people. Morales said: "This is the end of the looting of our natural resources by multinational oil companies."

Bolivia holds South America's second largest gas reserves. Morales swept to power in recent elections on a promise to "recover" natural resources for Bolivians.

Bolivia exports gas primarily to Brazil and Argentina.