MAC: Mines and Communities

Nationalisation - threat or promise?

Published by MAC on 2006-05-14

Nationalisation - threat or promise?

14th May 2006

"This is just the start ...tomorrow or the day after it will be MINING, then the forestry sector, and eventually all of the natural resources for which our ancestors fought."

That was the ringing 2006 May Day declaration, made by president Evo Morales to the Bolivian people and encompassed in a Decree. on nationalisation. As the only indigenous head of state in Latin America - and one acutely conscious of his obligations to those who brought him to power - his words have provoked a flurry of contradictory speculation.

Yes, he had sent troops into the oil fields to "repossess them" and, shortly before, had expelled a businessman trying to set up charcoal blast furnaces in Santa Cruz, seat of Bolivia's richest extractive operators. But would he really implement his threat to nationalise? And would Venezuela's Hugo Chavez and Peru's president elect, Ollanta Humala, follow suit?

After all, recent experience in Venezuela shows that the mining indstry, far from being eased out, is actually being offered more concessions. The president of one US mining company operating in the country on May 3 declared that "Venezuelan officials aren't going to do anything too terribly radical" and may actually provide opportunities to develop additional properties in the country. Phil Baker, President and CEO of Idaho's Hecla Mining, commented that "nothing has really changed politically for mining during the first quarter of this year; Hecla had increased gold production in Venezuela by 16,000 ounces during that time, although having to sell a modest 15% of production to the local market as required by Venezuelan law (Mineweb May 4 2006) .

As for the contention that this new breed of Latin American leaders would follow Fidel Castro's anti-American lead, in fact the Cuban autocrat, desperate for foreign investment, granted US company Sherritt International a 49% equity in the island's nickel and coablt resource, as long ago as 1990.

Doubt has also been expressed by some observers that Morales is really proposing the type of nationalisation characteristic of the 1950's and sixties, especially in Africa and Latin America. The relicts of state-owned Comibol still have a commanding share in some of Bolivia's major mines, without this appearing to faze foreign investors too much. Another U.S. mining company, Denver-based Apex Silver, in early May asserted that "the company is not aware of any plan by the government of Bolivia to follow a [nationalisation] policy in mining...Apex Silver was particularly encouraged by recent statements made by the Bolivian Minister of Mines and Metallurgy in which he emphasized that the mining policy does not contemplate nationalization and even less incorporation of private companies such as San Cristobal."

When state-owned companies ruled the roost, many failed in terms of their obligations to the health and safety of workforces, environmental oversight, and returning income to the people at large. Nonetheless, some clearly provided well for workers (like Brazil's CVRD) while others - as at India's Neyveli lignite mine - cultivated townships with consistent, if not vibrant, community particpation. These may be enclaves, but they are
enclaves with a civil purpose, and far removed from today's many dissolute, upstart, ventures which rely on cheapened, sub-contracted labour. Vedanta's bauxite mines in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh provide graphic evidence of the deleterious consequences of privatisation.

Where there is unbroken state ownership, with social services and employment benefits built in from the start, there may still be much to commend it. But, where national companies have been forced to privatise under the World Bank's "structural adjustment programmes". we have sometimes seen the worst of both worlds. In Zambia during the late nineties, the privatisation of Zambia Copper Consolidated Copper Mines (ZCCM) stripped workers of various rights (including the right to sue for compensation) and exempted the new owners from environmental regulations. Worse still, Anglo American pulled out of ZCCM only a couple of years after taking it over, claiming it couldn't make the enterprise profitable. In 2004, Vedanta took over ZCCM's key mine at Konkola at a price that opposition politicians have claimed was derisory.

Would a new wave of nationalisation recoup the social advantages of the past, without replicating the undoubted environmental damage? As the large state-owned enterprises have been broken up, so their management expertise has been dissipated. Many thousands of workers skilled in operating underground mines have been laid off, or moved to other occupations (such as those who dug Britain's deep coal pits until Thacherism eviserated the industry in the mid-eighties). Every time a national leader promises to turn back the clock, mining companies say they will sue for breach of contract, or withdraw from the country. Considering the many other countries which are ready to welcome them with open arms, these are not idle threats.

But, perhaps most important, these purportedly "radical" heads of state rule domains which have been irrevocably locked, not just into mineral dependency, but reliance on international markets they cannot control. The commodity trading pacts of thirty years ago have inexorably given way to the rules of the WTO. With the likely accession to those regulations of NAMA (Non Agriculture Marketing Access) and GATS (General Agreement on Trade in Services), calls for nationalisation look to be merely symbolic gestures. Meanwhile, the power of communities, to claim sovereignty over what lies beneath the land, remains as chimerical as ever.

Ironically, reactions to Mugabe's threats to nationalise mines in Zimbabwe have met with somewhat more industry alarm than those recent announcements from Latin America. No doubt there's apprehension that the renegade leader is capable of anything - even driving the country's nation (literally) into the ground. The irony lies in the fact that it was Mugabe who, on coming to power in 1980, declared that foreign mining companies would be ejected from the country, but soon pleaded with them to stay. Now, if they were to leave, there's hardly a hope in hell that the industry could survive.

Or, as a recent Zimbabwean commentator pointed out, there's a likelihood that South African companies - which have themselves seen the ANC government retreat on its "black empowerment" minerals ownership strategy - would move in swiftly to pick up and exploit the pieces. [Comment by Nostromo Research, May 14 2006].

How Morales took on the oil giants - and won his people back

Stand-off after Chávez-inspired leader sends troops into gas fields

Dan Glaister in Santa Cruz, The Guardian

6th May 2006

The lady behind the reception desk at the Palmasola refinery smiled sweetly. "We're just carrying on here as normal," she said. "There's nothing to report."

Horses ambled by on the dusty road outside. A few oil tankers stood idly, their drivers asleep. Only the presence of half-a-dozen soldiers, guns at their sides, revealed there was, indeed, something to report.

For Palmasola, a Brazilian-owned refinery 15 miles west of Santa Cruz de la Sierra, the most prosperous city in Latin America's poorest nation, was at the centre of an international storm this week that saw the country nationalise in all but name its foreign-owned gas and oil industry, pitting neighbouring countries against each other and wrongfooting foreign investors.

On May 1, Bolivia's recently elected president, Evo Morales, the country's first indigenous leader, put on a tin hat and made the declaration that much of the country had been waiting to hear. "The time has come," he said, announcing "a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources". Mr Morales spoke of "looting by foreign companies" and said it was time the armed forces "occupy all the energy fields in Bolivia". But he was off pace. The army had already moved into Bolivia's foreign-owned energy fields, refineries and distribution depots.

International capital did not like what it saw. Even Bolivia's allies, such as Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, looked displeased. But on the streets of Bolivia, it was a different story. "It's been up and down," says José López, a Santa Cruz native. "For the first 100 days of his rule, Evo didn't do the things he said he would. But this was much better. Now everyone is behind him again."

Such was the swing of popular support behind Mr Morales this week that a general strike planned for Thursday in the Santa Cruz region was called off. Sitting on a dusty traffic island outside the gates to the refinery, Eduardo González was charged with militant fervour and a sense of economic injustice. "It's good they want something for us," says Mr González, who services the tankers outside the gates. "If Bolivia owns the refinery it means there will be more jobs for Bolivians. Most of the people working in there," he nods at the distance, "are foreigners - Brazilians and Peruvians. We should have 100% ownership of it as a resource to help build the country."

Private and public

While foreign governments and the 25 foreign energy companies in Bolivia - including BP and BG from the UK, France's Total, Spain's Repsol, Brazil's Petrobras and ExxonMobil from the US - expressed their "consternation" at Mr Morales' "sad and worrying" decision, really only the timing should have taken them by surprise. For the president was doing that most unfashionable of things, delivering on a campaign promise.

Throughout the campaign, Mr Morales and his running mate said they wanted to renegotiate foreign ownership of Bolivia's natural resources. This would not be appropriation, they said, it would not be nationalisation, it would be a renegotiation of existing contracts on terms that would provide a greater share of the revenues for the state.

Throughout the campaign, hydrocarbons were the most frequently mentioned natural resources. Bolivians have long been sensitive about foreigners exploiting their resources, and not without reason. First came the Spanish, to rid the country of its silver, starting at Potosí in 1545. By the 20th century, tin mining had taken over. Today, Bolivia has the second largest reserves of natural gas in Latin America after Venezuela; 45% of it is exported to Brazil at a low price. But in the late 1970s, faced with crippling debt, Bolivia began to place its public assets in private hands: the mines, the railways, electricity, water, the state airline, hydrocarbons all went through a process delicately termed "capitalisation" in order to avoid the word "privatisation".

But the economic rigour demanded by the neo-liberal orthodoxy failed to produce the expected results. Poverty remained rampant, as did political instability. By the end of the 1990s, popular protests became the preferred method of political engagement. Mr Morales and his Movement Towards Socialism party proved adept at harnessing these pressures. "Twenty years on, people see the grand deception," said José Mirtenbaum, sitting in his tiny office in a dismal building in Santa Cruz's University Gabriel René Moreno.

"After all the great promises of the 1980s, what sort of planet do we have? It's also cyclical: there has been 20 years of neo-liberalism. Twenty years is enough, we shouldn't be too surprised."

But what is taking the place of neo-liberalism and privatisation? Is it the good old-fashioned leftist thirst for nationalisation and state control reasserting itself, as many feared this week? "It's an adjustment," says Mr Mirtenbaum. "It's a sort of gradual nationalisation. The next 180 days will be very difficult."

Capital values

The decree announcing the army would seize control of the gas installations gave foreign firms 180 days to renegotiate their contracts. "They're still going to get a decent return," says Mr Mirtenbaum. "It's a good business. These are irrational fears on the part of shareholders who think Bolivia cannot be a good partner, a good capitalist."

The vice-president, Alvaro García, speaking the day after the announcement, sought to assuage investors' fears: "The decree doesn't confiscate or annul the production capacity of the companies, what it does is reduce the extraordinary profits." Mr Morales, however, had already signalled his next move: "This is just the start," he said on Monday. "Tomorrow or the day after it will be mining, then forestry and eventually all the natural resources for which our ancestors fought."

For some, Mr Morales is reasserting the Bolivian state, a state that all but disappeared under the strains of financial policies imposed from afar. The notion that the state was ill-suited to running anything took deep root in Bolivia. For others, it is not the might of the state that is being asserted but the might of Hugo Chávez of Venezuela. His hands were all over the hydrocarbons announcement: presidents Morales and Chávez were in Havana last weekend to meet Fidel Castro and sign up to the latest instrument of hemispheric influence, the Alba trade agreement. Then Mr Chávez popped up in La Paz to, in the words of the Santa Cruz paper El Nuevo Día, hold the president's hand as he travelled to a summit meeting with the leaders of Brazil and Argentina.

For the US it could mark the fulfilment of another of Mr Morales' pledges, to be "Washington's worst nightmare". After a lot of bellicose comment during the campaign, the Bush administration has adopted an unexpectedly conciliatory tone.

"The US never had much confidence in Morales," says Peter Hakim, president of the Washington-based Inter-American Dialogue. "Some were prepared to give him a chance, but when he starts behaving like this it strengthens the hardline groups who think he's an ally of Chávez. I don't think Venezuela can be unhappy about this because the more the region is unsettled, the more they look like the leader."

Indeed Mr Chávez is not averse to stirring things up in the region. He has intervened in the forthcoming Peruvian and Mexican elections; his presence at the Mar del Plata summit was almost as divisive as that of President Bush; and his efforts to spread his munificence has sometimes been counterproductive.

But others wonder if presidents Castro or Chávez did have a hand in Mr Morales' move. The announcement that he is obliging foreign investors to renegotiate the terms of their business certainly echoes moves made by Mr Chávez with foreign oil companies, but Venezuela has a lot of valuable assets: it sends 1.5m barrels of oil a day to the US. Bolivia, on the other hand, has two clients for its natural gas: Brazil and Argentina, and some see naivety in Mr Morales' failure to balance the interests of his domestic base with the demands of foreign policy to maintain good relations with his neighbours.

Those differences seemed to be partly healed at Thursday's summit. The four leaders - of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil and Venezuela - managed to move beyond the minor scuffle over gas prices. Indeed, they came close to enacting much of Mr Chávez's rhetoric: they all agreed to get behind Bolivia and support it as it tried to correct the woes of neo-liberalism and build a new country.

They also agreed to join in the "gasoducto del sur" which, as Mr Chávez grandly declared, "will bring cheap, clean gas to all the people of South America for the next century".

But Larry Birns, of the Washington-based Council on Hemispheric Affairs, believes the rhetoric and the reality might herald some sort of shift in the region. Alba, the gasoducto, Mr Morales taking on the energy companies, suggest, he says, that "a lethal threat is being posed by the school of thought that says development is not merely a matter for the economists. "Social issues have to be considered too. There is a direct challenge to the notion that what is private is good and what is public is bad. Enron put an end to that. If Morales has a successful administration, it will bring up some very heavy questions for Washington.

"It's going to be difficult for the Republicans to resist saying, what are we going to do now? The commies are running amok in Latin America. But the truth now is that the US has run out of options. There's not much it can do, short of killing the leaders."

Back at the refinery, the nice lady shrugs when I ask what the soldiers are doing. "They're guarding things," she says, helpfully. "Making sure everything's in order. That's all we know. "Network of 'Hugo's friends' links politics from Mexico to Brazil

The Chávez effect and the reshaping of a continent

Duncan Campbell, The Guardian

6th May 2006

The "Chávez effect", which started when Hugo Chávez was elected as Venezuelan president in 1998, has made waves across the continent, with the "pink tide" now lapping as far as Mexico to the north and Brazil to the south.

The effect is twofold: first, Mr Chávez has been a key player in establishing a network of leftist politicians in the region who can give each other moral and economic support and, second, his use of Venezuela's oil has caused his fellow leaders to examine how they can shift control of their own natural resources from private to public ownership.

The most recent example of the Chávez effect has been Evo Morales' action in Bolivia, but upcoming elections in Mexico and Peru could also lead to a situation in which more countries are involved in a leftwards move which would shift the balance of power away from Washington and challenge foreign ownership.

Currently at the heart of the changes are Mr Chávez, his close ally, Fidel Castro, and Mr Morales, the "three amigos" who espouse the most radical policies in the region. The relationship between presidents Chávez and Castro is strong, and has led to the deployment of 20,000 Cuban doctors in the poorest areas of Venezuela. Cuba has benefited from Venezuelan oil at cheaper prices. Their aims in terms of the economy are considerably to the left of centre-left leaders such as the newly elected Michelle Bachelet in Chile, Néstor Kirchner in Argentina and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva in Brazil. The next two months will show whether the "pink tide" is washing further inland or receding.

On June 4 in Peru, Ollanta Humala, the former army commander, who is supported by Mr Chávez and who has pledged to redistribute wealth, faces the centre-left former president, Alan García, in the runoff presidential elections. Mr Humala has said he will rewrite contracts with mining companies and "put Peru's natural resources to the service of its people". In April, he took 31% of the vote in the first round to Mr García's 24%, and together they squeezed out the conservative Lourdes Flores. But Mr Humala, whose populist style and background echoes that of Mr Chávez, may not succeed in the runoff, with the latest polls showing him trailing Mr García by 8%.

Mexico will vote on July 2 in what is another key test for the leftist network. A month ago, the leftist former mayor of Mexico City, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, appeared to be headed for victory but his substantial lead has slipped and he is now trailing the conservative, Felipe Calderón. Mr López Obrador, who has made no secret of his plans to shake up and radicalise the Mexican economy with the aim of redistributing wealth, has recaptured some of his lost ground.

The results in Peru and Mexico could determine whether there will really be a major shift in the relationship between the US and its southern neighbours or merely a slight realignment.

Another part of the Chávez effect has been the launch in Caracas of pan-Latin American TV channel Telesur, which aims to challenge CNN as a source of news. It was formed with the backing of Argentina, Brazil, Cuba and Uruguay, but the impetus came from Venezuela.

Political risk is part of the process for junior miners

Bolivia's move to nationalize its energy industry sends a chill through investors

Toronto Globe & Mail

5th May 2006

As spokesman for Vancouver-based New World Resource Corp., Don Flahiff spends much of his time telling shareholders about the company's latest project, a gold and copper deposit in southwestern Bolivia.

So when Bolivian president Evo Morales sent in the troops to occupy the country's gas fields in a May Day show of force and vowed to take more control of Bolivia's natural resources, Mr. Flahiff admits he cringed. Yesterday, however, Mr. Flahiff said New World wasn't overly concerned about what Mr. Morales might have in mind, saying Bolivia needs foreign investors to help build and run new mines.

Besides, he adds, heightened political risk tends to be part of the equation for junior companies.

"If this project were in Nevada, we wouldn't have it," he said.

Nevada, as it turns out, takes top spot for "policy potential" in the Fraser Institute's annual survey of risk factors for miners.

Bolivia pulls in at 56 of 64 jurisdictions -- below favoured locales such as fourth-ranked Chile but ahead of Zimbabwe, which pegged a record low of 2.4 out of a possible 100 in the 2005/2006 survey.

Even though Bolivia's mining regulations were unchanged by the May 1 decree for the oil and gas business, shares of mining companies that have big stakes in the country were hammered, reflecting investor worries about possible delays or even confiscation of mining projects. "Given the potential for direct market impacts relating to changes in the political landscape, the market may begin to focus more on the geographical exposure of a company's asset base," RBC Capital Markets analyst Michael Curran said in a May 3 report on silver stocks.

Denver-based Apex Silver Mines Ltd., which is developing the San Cristobal silver-zinc-lead mine in Bolivia, has the greatest exposure to Bolivia, the report said. The report also looked at Venezuela, where populist president Hugo Chavez caused a stir last fall when he talked about reforms in the mining sector.

Mr. Chavez's comments have also proved a headache for Toronto-based Crystallex International Corp., which is developing the Las Cristinas gold project in Venezuela.

Crystallex shares were pounded last September after Mr. Chavez's comments sparked fears of wholesale nationalization, fears that ebbed somewhat after officials said reforms would be aimed at companies not actively investing in their properties. Crystallex shares have since recovered.

For the most part, the market takes so-called country risks into account through valuation multiples, CIBC World Markets analyst Barry Cooper said in a report Wednesday. Political risk can be forgotten in a bull market and is difficult to quantify, he added.

Using the Fraser Institute rankings, Mr. Cooper ranked gold producers he covers in terms of country risk by reserves and production.

The most at-risk company was Toronto-based High River Gold Mines Ltd., which has assets in Russia and the West African country of Burkina Faso, while the least at-risk company was Meridian Gold, whose sole producing mine is in Chile.

A big question mark is hanging over Peru, where two leftist candidates will face off in a run-off presidential election on June 4.

Ollanta Humala, who won the first round of the election in April, has talked of renegotiating contracts with international mining companies, although he has denied that he plans to nationalize the country's mining sector.

Major companies including gold miner Barrick Gold Corp. and base metal producers Teck Cominco Ltd. and Falconbridge Ltd. all have operations or projects in Peru.

Silver producers Pan American Silver Corp., Silver Wheaton Corp. and Silver Standard Resources Inc. also have assets in Peru.

The high-risk/high-reward motto holds true in many instances, said Sprott Asset Management Inc. chairman Eric Sprott.

His firm recently paid a little over $1-million to acquire a 13-per-cent stake in New World, and is not averse to making other investments in Bolivia, Mr. Sprott said.

Risky business

Several South American governments eager to gain a bigger slice of resource revenue are moving quickly to rewrite the rules for foreign companies operating within their borders.

Bolivia: The impoverished country has the second-largest natural gas reserves in South America after Venezuela, and disputes over how it should manage those riches have sparked several popular revolts since 2003. The nationalization plan announced by President Evo Morales stipulates companies will have to leave Bolivia unless they sign contracts recognizing state control.

Venezuela: President Hugo Chavez has rattled oil markets with takeovers in the world's fifth-largest crude exporter. A group of 16 international companies last month converted subcontracting deals to joint ventures, giving state oil company PDVSA a majority stake.

Ecuador: Lawmakers in South America's fifth-largest producer last month approved a bill that will force oil companies to hand over at least 50 per cent of profits resulting from oil revenues above benchmark prices. Most oil companies have said the reforms are unconstitutional and threatened to sue.

Peru: Citizens went to the polls on April 9 to elect a new president and two leftist candidates appear headed into a runoff vote on May 28 or June 4. Peru's business environment is likely to change regardless of who wins, as 92 per cent of Peruvians would like the government to review the hydrocarbon laws, according to local polls, analysts PFC Energy said.

Bolivia says it wants greater control of mining industry

Source: Xinhua

3rd May 2006

Bolivia's Vice President Alvaro Garcia said on Tuesday that the government wanted greater control of the mining industry, one day after President Evo Morales signed a decree on nationalizing the county's natural gas and petrol industry.

Garcia said large mining companies could face higher taxes and royalty payments and the government would have a bigger role in the mining industry.

The government would also crack down on foreign timber companies violating conservation laws and steer companies to export processed wood products rather than raw timber, said Garcia.

But he ruled out a nationalization in the wood industry similar to that in the energy sector.

Under the decree signed Monday by Morales, Bolivia's state oil company YPFB will control all natural gas fields and pay foreign companies for their services.

Bolivia has a reserve of about 48.8 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, the second largest deposit in South America, which is being exploited by about 20 foreign firms.

Morales, who took office in January as Bolivia's first indigenous president, has repeatedly said his country's natural resources must be nationalized so that Bolivians could benefit from the profits that are sent overseas.

Bolivian President Seizes Gas Industry

Troops Deployed In Move to Block Foreign Influence

By Monte Reel and Steven Mufson

Washington Post Foreign Service

2nd May 2006; Page A01

CARACAS, Venezuela, May 1 -- Bolivian President Evo Morales seized control of the country's natural gas industry Monday, sending soldiers to occupy fields that he contends private companies have plundered for years.Morales said that unless foreign energy firms agreed to give Bolivia's state oil company oversight of production and a majority of their revenue generated in Bolivia, the government would evict them from the fields.

"The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources," Morales said during a televised speech from a gas field near the country's southern border. "The looting by foreign companies has ended."

Morales's announcement was expected, but his deployment of troops to gas fields was a strong statement in a region where governments are moving to block outside influence, particularly from the United States, and exert more control over the energy industry. Venezuela recently voided drilling contracts with private companies at 32 oil fields, demanding new contracts that give the state oil company a 60 percent stake. Ecuador is finalizing a law that could limit excessive profits by foreign crude producers.

The developments in Bolivia were not expected to affect the U.S. energy market. Even in Bolivia, analysts played down the importance of the troop deployment, but they acknowledged the message Morales was trying to send.

"I think it was a symbolic move to send the military to the oil fields to show that Bolivians are now in charge of taking care of their own property," said Gonzalo Chavez, a political analyst with the Catholic University in La Paz, the Bolivian capital. "It's an extremely popular move. There's a lot of nationalism in the country right now, and this is something that a lot of people are going to like."

During his victorious electoral campaign last year, Morales promised that he would force energy companies to give at least 50 percent of their revenue to the government's state energy company. The plan announced Monday called for a substantially higher percentage -- 82 percent -- to be surrendered by any company producing more than 100 million cubic feet of natural gas daily. He said that all companies have six months to agree to the terms or be kicked out of the country.

Bolivia boasts South America's second-largest reserves of natural gas, behind Venezuela. The country does not play a major role in international energy markets, but its natural gas exports are important to some of its neighbors.About 25 international energy firms operate in Bolivia. Brazil's Petrobras and Spain's Repsol YPF have the largest operations in the country, and Exxon Mobil Corp. of the United States maintains a smaller presence.

Morales has conceded that Bolivia needs the help of those foreign companies to get reserves out of the ground, and he has said his nationalization plan is not designed to cut those companies completely out of the sector.

Bob Davis, an Exxon spokesman, said Monday that the company was "monitoring the situation" in Bolivia. He said that earlier concerns prompted Exxon to submit a letter to an international arbitration board saying that the company was contemplating a request for arbitration.

Oil industry officials have been increasingly concerned about the investment climate in Bolivia. According to news reports, Bolivia's attorney general, Pedro Gareca, opened criminal cases in mid-March against three former Bolivian presidents and eight former energy ministers for alleged wrongdoing in drawing up and signing contracts with foreign oil companies.

Morales's government has held bilateral talks with energy firms in recent weeks, but negotiations sputtered. Petrobras, after announcing additional investments of $5 billion shortly after Morales's inauguration in January, rescinded the plan in March because of uncertainty over the government's policies. Tensions also flared with Repsol YPF after the government accused its executives of smuggling oil out of the country.

Monday's announcement coincided with May Day workers' celebrations throughout the country. Morales had been under political pressure to announce the plan, which his backers consider a key to the success of his administration. He has said he plans to use increased state revenue from the takeover to fund social programs in South America's poorest country.

A longtime leader of Bolivia's coca growers union, Morales was elected in December after leading protests railing against foreign corporations and the management of the country's gas resources, which are mostly located in the Santa Cruz province in the southeastern corner of Bolivia. He spent the weekend in Cuba with ideological ally Hugo Chavez, the Venezuelan leader who has helped lead a regional shift away from the privatization of South American industries and toward more state control.

Even though it recently reached oil independence, Brazil is the country that leans most heavily on Bolivia for natural gas. In the 1990s, the Brazilian government reinforced the country's hydroelectric power grid with plants fueled by natural gas, and many of Brazil's automobiles run on natural gas. About half of Brazil's natural gas needs -- 520 million cubic feet daily -- are supplied by Bolivia via a 2,000-mile pipeline financed mostly by Petrobras. In 2003,

Petrobras discovered gas deposits within Brazil that some experts say could significantly ease demand, but tapping that gas could prove costly and difficult.

Mufson reported from Washington.

Brazilian businessman fails to comply with licenses and is expelled

From Bolivia

26th April /2006

São Paulo - SP

Santa Cruz Forest might have been turned into charcoal, businessman used blackmailed by making job offers.

The Brazilian businessman Eike Batista, owner of the company EBX, is today the center of attention in Bolivia, as he has been considered a 'persona non grata' by the president of the country, Evo Morales.

This was in light of the pressure he exerted to obtain environmental licensing for the charcoal-fed blast furnaces to process pig iron, that he illegally built on the border with Brazil.

Charges made by the Bolivian Forum on the Environment and Development (Fobomade) state that EBX is already concluding the construction of a power plant in Puerto Quijarro, without environmental licensing, in violation of legislation.

The plant, with its furnaces to produce pig iron, will use charcoal taken from the Bolivian Pantanal wetlands. EBX maintains that it will use 450,000 tons of charcoal from native forests. According to calculations from the Forest Directorate and EBX itself, the entire Bolivian Pantanal would have to be deforested during the initial phases, as well as Germán Busch province, if not the entire native forest of the Department of Santa Cruz, at a rate of 12,750 hectares per year. Later, the company proposes planting eucalyptus in one of the tropical regions most important to the ecological equilibrium of the planet.

Reacting to what he considers "pressure from the Bolivian government", the businessman Eike Batista spoke yesterday to the Brazilian newspaper, Valor Economico, saying that he had "promised mayors and community leaders in Puerto Suárez, Puerto Quijarra and Germán Busch, to wait until Friday the 28th, to announce a definitive decision." And, as pointed out by the newspaper, he considers himself a victim. "if they don't want me, I'll leave. I'll go home", he said in Spanish. The same newspaper today confirmed EBX's departure from Bolivia. It says that Eike Batista will seek alternative locations in Brazil and Paraguay.

The old line about jobs

Eike Batista argues that, if he has to definitely abandon the project, Bolivia could lose six thousand potential jobs, a US$148 million metalworking plant and a US$180 million steel plant. He also added a claim as to the benefit of reforestation using eucalyptus. Nevertheless, the Bolivian social movements point out that the discourse about employment hides the fact that, once the work is concluded, all of the bricklayers will be fired anyway. Moreover, alleges Fobomade, "he hides information on the small amount of jobs created by this type of industry, where the only increase in employment necessary will be in felling of trees.

Energy Baron

Since 1983, Eike Batista, the "energy baron", has participated in different projects through the business group that includes MPX (energy), AMX (water resources: he has announced the discovery of water in the Atacama desert - which will be used in copper mines) and MMX (steel).

In 2006, Eike Batista was dubbed by the international press as a speculator, due to a scandal involving the Ceará Thermo Power Plant, a Brazilian thermoelectric power plant that obtained an unscrupulous contract with President Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and which included a clause entitled "contingent contribution" by which Petrobras paid all of the company's investment costs each month without receiving anything in return.

On February 16, 2005, the company MPX (association of EBX and MDU from the US) was fined the amount of R$2,986 million for presenting false information to Aneel. The fine had been issued in July 2004, but an appeal filed by EBX delayed the disclosure of the investigations.

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Chavez defends gas pipeline that cuts across Amazonia after signing manifesto for biodiversity in the region

26th April 2006


São Paulo - Only five days after having promoted and signed the "Manifesto of the Americas" in Curitiba, a document that puts into practice a so-called universal responsibility to the biodiversity and social diversity of the Amazon region, the Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez returned to Brazil to present, in São Paulo, the roadmap of what may be the largest infrastructure project ever conducted in the region.

This morning, Chavez was meeting with presidents Lula and Kirchner, discussing the technical feasibility of deploying the gas pipeline. According to the statement of Minister of Foreign Relations, Celso Amorim, to the Estado de S. Paulo, the three presidents are enthused with the technical explanations that "demonstrate that the pipeline is feasible", contrary to statements made by several specialists.

For the first time the map of the pipeline's projected trajectory which, by crossing several areas of Amazon forest, will cause a series of impacts on biodiversity, in addition to worsening social problems of municipalities in the region, with the dissemination of diseases and prostitution and stimulation to disorderly land occupation. This is the situation that evolved in areas surrounding other gas pipelines in Amazonia.

The manifesto signed by Chavez

Read a passage from the manifesto, which the Venezuelan president was the first to sign: "As inhabitants of the American continent, we are conscious of our universal responsibility. The future of the Earth also depends on us. The Amazonian and Andean countries, for example, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil are hugely diverse lands. Not only due to the presence of the extremely rich ecosystems, but also due to the presence of many indigenous, peasant, maroon and other local communities, which for centuries and even thousands of years have known how to live in co-habitation with biodiversity and social diversity.

The Amazon Forest present in our countries represents one third of all tropical forests in the world and holds over 50% of the planet's biodiversity. There are at least 45,000 species of plants, 1,800 species of butterflies, 150 species of bats, 1,300 species of freshwater fish, 163 species of amphibians, 305 species of snakes, 311 species of mammals and 1,000 bird species in the forest."


Foreign investors nervous about Mugabe's plan to place country's mines in state hands.

By Hativagone Mushonga in Harare

President Robert Mugabe has thrown the economic future of beleaguered Zimbabwe into greater uncertainty and confusion with a declaration that the state intends nationalising all 500 of the country's mines.

Speaking at Independence Day celebrations on April 18, Mugabe fanned fears among foreign investors when he proclaimed a new mine ownership policy. "We said we want 51 per cent in favour of Zimbabwe and 49 per cent in favour of the investors," he said.

"The depleting resources, non-renewable resources, are ours in the first place. You, the investor, will get a reward, yes, but that reward will be balanced by what we keep for ourselves."

The Mines Ministry subsequently further shocked foreign investors by issuing a statement saying 25 per cent of the shares in mine companies would be nationalised without any compensation.

Mining has become Zimbabwe's top foreign currency earner following the collapse of commercial farming, which critics blame on Mugabe's decision to abolish ownership rights of former owners, mainly white, and drive them off the land.

However, some senior ministers are now suggesting that the government is willing to compromise and take only an initial 15 per cent of shares in the mines in order to reduce the level of alarm among investors.

Jack Murehaw, president of the Zimbabwe Chamber of Mines, representing some 200 foreign and local mine owners, said the organisation is still discussing the issue with government. "We presented specific suggestions and discussions are earnestly in progress," he said. "It will, therefore, be improper for me at this point to get into the details of the discussion currently taking place.

"Our response centres on our desire for government to come up with amendments to the Mines and Minerals Act which will encourage further investment in the industry, and therefore growth of the sector, while also addressing the issues of [indigenous] empowerment."

The Chamber of Mines has warned that the policy, as outlined by Mugabe on Independence Day, would kill all foreign investment. Zimbabwe is already suffering a critical shortage of foreign exchange, both in the private sector and in government coffers, which would make the financing of the deal sought by the president very difficult. "The government and locals will have to fork out at least three trillion Zimbabwe dollars [3 billion US dollars] to take any significant equity in current mining operations," said Murehaw.

A senior government official confirmed to IWPR that negotiations were continuing and that the percentage ownership ultimately demanded by the government was likely to be lower than Mugabe's 51 per cent, perhaps around 30 per cent. "Zimbabwe is not the only country that has done this, but because Mugabe [is] proposing [it], it is blown out of proportion," said the official.

"Mali has 51 per cent shareholding [in gold mines], while Namibia and Botswana have 49 per cent in their diamond mines. South Africa is also talking about it. So it's nothing new. It is a SADC (Southern African Development Community) approach to mining that we are adopting."

On talk that Zimbabwe might lose current investment and future investors, the official said threats of pulling out from Zimbabwe were not serious. If current owners, mainly South African and British, pulled out other investors from Russia, Australia, India and the Middle East had indicated their interest in mining in Zimbabwe.

"Mugabe is doing it all for the future, for our children, grandchildren and other future generations," the official continued. "We can't sit by while our country is being raped. These are not renewable resources. If they are gone, they are gone. The figure of 51 per cent is just a discussion point."

The trouble is that past experience of Mugabe's catastrophic nationalization of land makes it difficult to shrug off his statements on mine nationalisation as mere politicking. Whatever the senior official might say, Mugabe has the final word in Cabinet and he broaches no opposition.

Ask anyone in the ZANU PF party or the government who has tried to contradict the president, often rightly so, and they relate receiving a tirade of insults. Few dare to criticise seriously for fear of being sacked.

Vice President Joseph Msika and ZANU PF's national chairman John Nkomo tried to convince Mugabe some two years ago that it would be a mistake to allow the incompetent government-owned Agricultural and Rural Development Authority, ARDA, to nationalise the once successful and lucrative Kondozi farm in Odzi, Manicaland province.

Despite being given facts about ARDA's past failures, Mugabe stuck by his guns and went ahead to confiscate from its owners the huge property, which was one of Zimbabwe's largest horticultural exporting concerns, with markets in Europe and South Africa. The property was registered as a protected Export Processing Zone with an annual turnover of 15 million US dollars and employing 5,000 people.

Although some cabinet ministers agreed with Msika and Nkomo, none dared to add their voices to the protests. Now, two years later, Msika and Nkomo are having the last laugh. The farm is lying derelict and most of the equipment has been looted and vandalised. Mugabe's righthand man, Security Minister Didymus Mutasa, and Agriculture Minister Joseph Made are among senior ministers accused by military investigators of stealing machinery from the farm.

A senior official of the opposition Movement for Democratic Change, MDC, told IWPR it would be a mistake to assume that Mugabe was only politicking on Independence Day. "Mugabe has now said the final word and there is no going back," he said. "It is just another way of nationalising the mining sector. I strongly believe that we are shooting ourselves in the foot. The mining companies are going to pull out and we will not get any more foreign investment in that sector because investors are there to make money."

The mining sector is the last remaining pillar of the collapsing Zimbabwean economy, earning 626 million US dollars last year, which represents 44 per cent of the country's total foreign currency revenues.

Major companies that will be affected by any legislation include the world's second largest platinum producer, South Africa's Implats with an 87 per cent interest in the local-based Zimbabwe Platinum Mines; South Africa's Anglo Platinum, the world's largest platinum producer; the United Kingdom's Rio Tinto Zinc; and Metallon, owned by South African tycoon Mzi Khumalo.

Zimbabwe, with the second largest platinum deposits after South Africa, is the main area for Implats' future planned growth.

Zimbabwe introduced royalty fees on mineral production in January last year, piling pressure on an industry already saddled with foreign currency shortages and a surge in power costs. "The cost of foreign currency, officially and unofficially, is putting producers on edge," said leading independent Harare economist John Robertson. "The constraints are quite serious and nothing government is doing is encouraging investment. No miner wants to invest a lot of capital because of the uncertainty in the sector."

In South Africa, Zimbabwe's giant southern neighbour, investment analysts are watching the Zimbabwean mining and economic situation keenly, trying to gauge the right moment to invest in what was once the second strongest industrial economy in Africa, and pick up bargain basement concerns. That moment may not come until 82-year-old Mugabe leaves the stage and the dust settles on the successor regime. What could then follow is a takeover of vast swathes of the near-destroyed Zimbabwean economy by capital-rich South African interests.

Hativagone Mushonga is the pseudonym of an IWPR journalist in Zimbabwe. IWPR Africa Reports No. 62, London, 3 May 2006

Nacionalizaciones en Bolivia inquietan a empresas mineras


Associated Press

martes 9 de mayo de 2006

TORONTO - El creciente control estatal de numerosas actividades y la nacionalización del gas natural en Bolivia tienen preocupadas a las compañías mineras de América del Norte, algunas de las cuales están reconsiderando sus planes de extraer oro, plata y estaño en ese país.

El presidente de una de las principales productoras de oro del mundo dijo a sus accionistas que preferiría iniciar exploraciones en Pakistán a seguir operando en países sudamericanos que ponen obstáculos a la inversión extranjera.

Patricia Dillon, presidenta de la Prospectors and Developers Association of Canada, dijo sentirse desconcertada por los proyectos bolivianos de aumentar los impuestos y las regalías que cobran a las empresas mineras extranjeras.

"Respetamos el derecho de los gobiernos a actuar como les parezca en beneficio de sus pueblos. Pero estimamos que los países deberían cuidarse de seguir políticas que, a largo plazo, desalentarán la inversión extranjera", expresó Dillon.

El presidente boliviano Evo Morales nacionalizó los hidrocarburos y dijo que piensa extender el control estatal a la minería y otros sectores.

El vicepresidente boliviano Alvaro García Linera aseguró que las empresas mineras no serán nacionalizadas, pero indicó que deberán pagar impuestos y regalías más altos y que el gobierno hará cumplir leyes ya existentes y dividir grandes terrenos que no están siendo explotados, aparentemente para entregarlos a los pobres.

El fundador de una de las empresas productoras de oro más grandes del mundo dijo que, a la luz de estos acontecimientos, opina que es mejor invertir en Pakistán que en Bolivia, a pesar de la presencia de extremistas islámicos en suelo paquistaní.

"Pakistán es uno de los mejores países" para invertir en la industria minera, declaró Peter Munk, presidente de la Barrick Gold Corp., con sede en Toronto, durante la asamblea anual de la compañía la semana pasada. "Si tuviese que elegir dónde poner mi dinero, si en uno de los países gobernados por Evo Morales o (Hugo) Chávez, sabría dónde lo haría", manifestó.

Barrick compró acciones en Reko Dig, un proyecto de explotación de oro y cobre en Pakistán, por las que pagó 100 millones de dólares a la firma chilena Antofagasta PLC en febrero.

Cuando el director ejecutivo de le empresa, Greg Wilkins, viajó a Islamabad para adelantar el proyecto, fue recibido por el primer ministro Shaukat Aziz y por el presidente Pervez Musharraf, según dijo Munk.

Si bien las evaluaciones de las posibilidades que ofrece el país no están muy avanzadas, Wilkins dijo que a Barrick "le interesaría mucho" iniciar proyectos allí, a pesar de la presencia de elementos de al-Qaida en algunas regiones.

El presidente de la Newmont Mining Corp., con sede en Denver, y director del Consejo Mundial del Oro, Pierre Lassonde, dijo la semana pasada en Lima que también le inquietaba la situación en Bolivia.

"Al ver lo que sucede en Bolivia, Ecuador y Venezuela, hay que sentirse nervioso. Esto es la gran pesadilla de todo inversionista: que uno invierta miles de millones de dólares y de repente se encuentre con que sus inversiones han sido nacionalizadas".

No todos se sienten tan atemorizados. Paul Zdebiak, vicepresidente de Eaglecrest Explorations Ltd., empresa canadiense dedicada a la búsqueda de oro, considera que las recientes medidas adoptadas por Morales son más bien una pose y que la situación en Bolivia no seguirá radicalizándose. Su empresa, con sede en Vancouver, invirtió 25 millones de dólares en la exploración en busca de oro en Bolivia en los últimos 14 años y piensa continuar sus operaciones.

"(Morales) Se está golpeando el pecho y diciendo que va a ser un Robbin Hood, que le roba a los ricos para entregarlo a los pobres", señaló Zdebiak. "Pero pasado un tiempo, no podrá aislar a Bolivia del resto del mundo y frenar las inversiones (procedentes del exterior), porque Bolivia es el país más pobre de Sudamérica".

Scott Lamb, vicepresidente de la firma estadounidense Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp., una de las principales productoras de plata del mundo, dijo que los recientes acontecimientos no ahuyentarán a su empresa de Bolivia, donde ha invertido 135 millones de dólares.

"Estamos conscientes de la situación en Bolivia, pero la industria minera de ese país tiene una historia que se remonta a cientos de años y hay un respeto y una comprensión de la industria minera arraigada en su cultura", expresó Lamb.

El Decreto Supremo 28701 de nacionalización de los hidrocarburos

Gaceta Oficial de Bolivia - Decreto Supremo 28701 "Héroes del Chaco"

3 de Mayo 2006

Evo Morales Ayma
Presidente Constitucional de la República


Que en históricas jornadas de lucha el pueblo ha conquistado, a costa de su sangre, el derecho de que nuestra riqueza hidrocarburífera vuelva a manos de la nación y sea utilizada en beneficio del país.

Que en el Referéndum Vinculante de 18 de julio de 2004, a través de la contundente respuesta a la pregunta 2, el pueblo ha decidido, de manera soberana, que el Estado Nacional recupere la propiedad de todos los hidrocarburos producidos en el país.

Que de acuerdo a lo expresamente dispuesto en los artículos 136, 137 y 139 de la Constitución Política del Estado, los hidrocarburos son bienes nacionales de dominio originario, directo, inalienables e imprescriptibles del Estado, razón por la que constituyen propiedad pública inviolable.

Que por mandato del inciso 5 del artículo 59 de la Constitución Política del Estado, los contratos de explotación de riquezas nacionales deben ser autorizados y aprobados por el Poder Legislativo, criterio reiterado en la sentencia del Tribunal Constitucional Nº 00 19/2005 de 7 de marzo de 2005.

Que esta autorización y aprobación legislativa constituye fundamento del contrato de explotación de riquezas nacionales por tratarse del consentimiento que otorga la nación, como propietaria de estas riquezas, a través de sus representantes.

Que las actividades de exploración y producción de hidrocarburos se están llevando adelante mediante contratos que no han cumplido con los requisitos constitucionales y que violan expresamente los mandatos de la Carta Magna al entregar la propiedad de nuestra riqueza hidrocarburífera a manos extranjeras.

Que ha expirado el plazo de 180 días señalado por el artículo 5 de la Ley Nº 3058 de 17 de mayo de 2005, Ley de Hidrocarburos, para la suscripción obligatoria de nuevos contratos.

Que el llamado proceso de capitalización y privatización de Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) ha significado no sólo un grave daño económico al Estado, sino además un acto de traición a la patria al entregar a manos extranjeras el control y la dirección de un sector estratégico, vulnerando la soberanía y la dignidad nacionales.

Que de acuerdo a los artículos 24 y 135 de la Constitución Política del Estado, todas las empresas establecidas en el país se consideran nacionales y están sometidas a la soberanía, leyes y autoridades de la República.

Que es voluntad y deber del Estado y del Gobierno Nacional, nacionalizar y recuperar la propiedad de los hidrocarburos, en aplicación de lo dispuesto por la Ley de Hidrocarburos.

Que el Pacto Internacional de los Derechos Civiles y Políticos, como también el Pacto de los Derechos Económicos y Culturales, suscritos el 16 de diciembre de 1966, determinan que: todos los pueblos pueden disponer libremente de sus riquezas y recursos naturales, sin perjuicio de las obligaciones que derivan de la cooperación económica internacional basada en el principio del beneficio reciproco, así como del derecho internacional. En ningún caso podrá privarse a un pueblo de sus propios medios de subsistencia Que Bolivia ha sido el primer país del Continente en nacionalizar sus hidrocarburos, en el año 1937 a la Standard Oil Co., medida heroica que se tomó nuevamente en el año 1969 afectando a la Gulf Oil, correspondiendo a la generación presente llevar adelante la tercera y definitiva nacionalización de su gas y su petróleo.

Que esta medida se inscribe en la lucha histórica de las naciones, movimientos sociales y pueblos originarios por reconquistar nuestras riquezas como base fundamental para recuperar nuestra soberanía.

Que por lo expuesto corresponde emitir la presente disposición, para llevar adelante la nacionalización de los recursos hidrocarburíferos del país.

En Consejo de Ministros Decreta:

Artículo 1.- En ejercicio de la soberanía nacional, obedeciendo el mandato del pueblo boliviano expresado en el Referéndum vinculante del 18 de julio del 2004 y en aplicación estricta de los preceptos constitucionales, se nacionalizan los recursos naturales hidrocarburíferos del país.

El Estado recupera la propiedad, la posesión y el control total y absoluto de estos recursos.

Artículo 2.- I. A partir del 1 de mayo del 2006, las empresas petroleras que actualmente realizan actividades de producción de gas y petróleo en el territorio nacional, están obligadas a entregar en propiedad a Yacimientos Petrolíferos Fiscales Bolivianos (YPFB) toda la producción de hidrocarburos.

II. YPFB, a nombre y en representación del Estado, en ejercicio pleno de la propiedad de todos los hidrocarburos producidos en el país, asume su comercialización, definiendo las condiciones, volúmenes y precios tanto para el mercado interno como para la exportación y la industrialización.

Artículo 3.- I. Sólo podrán seguir operando en el país las compañías que acaten inmediatamente las disposiciones del presente Decreto Supremo, hasta que en un plazo no mayor a 180 días desde su promulgación se regularice su actividad, mediante contratos que cumplan las condiciones y requisitos legales y constitucionales. Al término de este plazo, las compañías que no hayan firmado contratos no podrán seguir operando en el país.

II. Para garantizar la continuidad de la producción, YPFB, de acuerdo a directivas del Ministerio de Hidrocarburos y Energía, tomará a su cargo la operación de los campos de las compañías que se nieguen a acatar o impidan el cumplimiento de lo dispuesto en el presente Decreto Supremo.

III. YPFB no podrá ejecutar contratos de explotación de hidrocarburos que no hayan sido individualmente autorizados y aprobados por el Poder Legislativo en pleno cumplimiento del mandato del inciso 5 del artículo 59 de la Constitución Política del Estado.

Artículo 4.- I. Durante el período de transición, para los campos cuya producción certificada promedio de gas natural del año 2005 haya sido superior a los 100 millones de pies cúbicos diarios, el valor de la producción se distribuirá de la siguiente forma: 82% para el Estado (18% de regalías y participaciones, 32% de Impuesto Directo a los Hidrocarburos IDH y 32% a través de una participación adicional para YPFB), y 18% para las compañías (que cubre costos de operación, amortización de inversiones y utilidades).

II. Para los campos cuya producción certificada promedio de gas natural del año 2005 haya sido menor a 100 millones de pies cúbicos diarios, durante el período de transición se mantendrá la actual distribución del valor de la producción de hidrocarburos.

III. El Ministerio de Hidrocarburos y Energía determinará, caso por caso y mediante auditorías, las inversiones realizadas por las compañías, así como sus amortizaciones, costos de operación y rentabilidad obtenida en cada campo. Los resultados de las auditorías servirán de base a YPFB para determinar la retribución o participación definitiva correspondiente a las compañías en los contratos a ser firmados de acuerdo a lo establecido en el artículo 3 del presente Decreto Supremo.

Artículo 5.- I. El Estado toma el control y la dirección de la producción, transporte, refinación, almacenaje, distribución, comercialización e industrialización de hidrocarburos en el país.

II. El Ministerio de Hidrocarburos y Energía regulará y normará estas actividades hasta que se aprueben nuevos reglamentos de acuerdo a ley.

Artículo 6.- I. En aplicación a lo dispuesto por el artículo 6 de la Ley de Hidrocarburos, se transfieren en propiedad a YPFB, a título gratuito, las acciones de los ciudadanos bolivianos que formaban parte del Fondo de Capitalización Colectiva en las empresas petroleras capitalizadas Chaco SA, Andina SA y Transredes SA.

II. Para que esta transferencia no afecte el pago del BONOSOL, el Estado garantiza la reposición de los aportes por dividendos que estas empresas entregaban anualmente al Fondo de Capitalización Colectiva.

III. Las acciones del Fondo de Capitalización Colectiva que están a nombre de las Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones en las empresas Chaco SA, Andina SA y Transredes SA serán endosadas a nombre de YPFB,

Artículo 7.- I. El Estado recupera su plena participación en toda la cadena productiva del sector de hidrocarburos.

II. Se nacionalizan las acciones necesarias para que YPFB controle como mínimo el 50% más 1 en las empresas Chaco SA., Andina SA, Transredes SA, Petrobras Bolivia Refinación SA y Compañía Logística de Hidrocarburos de Bolivia SA.

III. YPFB nombrará inmediatamente a sus representantes y síndicos en los respectivos directorios y firmará nuevos contratos de sociedad y administración en los que se garantice el control y la dirección estatal de las actividades hidrocarburíferas en el país.

Artículo 8.- En 60 días, a partir de la fecha de promulgación del presente Decreto Supremo y dentro del proceso de refundación de YPEB, se procederá a su reestructuración integral, convirtiéndola en una empresa corporativa, transparente, eficiente y con control social.

Artículo 9.- En todo lo que no sea contrario a lo dispuesto en el presente Decreto Supremo, se seguirán aplicando los reglamentos y normas vigentes a la fecha, hasta que sean modificados de acuerdo a ley.

Los señores Ministros de Estado, el Presidente de YPFB y las Fuerzas Armadas de la Nación, quedan encargados de la ejecución y cumplimiento del presente Decreto Supremo.

Es dado en el Palacio de Gobierno de la ciudad de La Paz, al primer día del mes de mayo del año dos mil seis.

Firmado: Evo Morales Ayma, David Choquehuanca Céspedes, Juan Ramón Quintana Taborga, Alicia Muñoz Alá, Walker San Miguel Rodríguez, Carlos Villegas Quiroga, Luis Alberto Arce Catacora, Abel Mamani Marca, Celinda Sosa Lunda, Salvador Ric Riera, Hugo Salvatierra Gutiérrez, Andrés Soliz Rada, Wálter Villarroel Morochi, Santiago Álex Gálvez Mamani (Ministro de Trabajo e Interino de Justicia), Félix Patzi Paco, Nila Heredia Miranda.

Bolivia subirá impuestos pero no expropiará minería

2nd May 2006

LA PAZ, mayo 2 (Reuters) - Bolivia prepara una intervención en la industria minera del país, que incluirá un aumento de los impuestos pero no una expropiación de las empresas del sector, dijo el martes el vicepresidente, Alvaro García.

El gobierno del presidente Evo Morales está "contento" con grandes proyectos mineros que entrarán próximamente en producción, como las minas de plata y zinc San Cristóbal y San Bartolomé, dijo García a una radio local, pero señaló que las reglas de juego deben cambiar.

"Se garantiza la inversión privada en distintas minas, estamos contentos (...) pero, lo decimos claramente, tienen que pagar más impuestos" por encima de la tasa actual inferior al 5 por ciento, declaró García al día siguiente de que el gobierno decretó la nacionalización de los hidrocarburos.

En la minería "no se les va a expropiar las empresas, por supuesto, pero vamos a asumir un control mayor del Estado en el proceso y vamos a reactivar (la empresa estatal) Comibol", agregó.

San Cristóbal es una de las minas de plata y zinc a cielo abierto más grandes del mundo, a 900 kilómetros al sur de La Paz y cerca de la frontera con Chile, que la estadounidense Apex Silver Mines Ltd. <SIL.A> desarrolla con una inversión de aproximadamente 600 millones de dólares y que debe entrar en producción en el 2007.

En San Bartolomé, proyecto ubicado en el área del famoso Cerro Rico de Potosí, a 500 kilómetros al sur de la capital, la también estadounidense Coeur d'Alene Mines Corp. <CDE.N> dijo que ha invertido ya 35 millones de dólares, de un total previsto de casi 200 millones de dólares.

"Estamos contentos de que esos proyectos arranquen", dijo García, al referirse a las dos mayores inversiones en la minería boliviana en las tres últimas décadas.

El anuncio de una próxima "nacionalización" de la minería, con eje en el fortalecimiento de la estatal Comibol, fue hecho inicialmente el lunes en la noche por el presidente Morales, en un discurso de celebración de la nacionalización petrolera.

Las acciones de Apex y Coeur D'Alene se hundieron el martes tras los anuncios de cambios en Bolivia.

En transacciones vespertinas en los mercados de Nueva York, las acciones de Apex caían hasta un 25 por ciento y las de Coeur d'Alene, el mayor productor mundial de plata que cotiza en bolsa, retrocedían hasta un 9,5 por ciento.

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