May 05, 2006

Bolivia's Gas Nationalization

Bolivia's Evo Morales might be inspired by Hugo Chavez in his bid to nationalize the country's hydrocarbons, but he's also following the will of his voters, emphasis mine:

... 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."

..."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." ...

Mr. Hakim has an interesting definition of unsettled there. Apparently, countries whose leaders enact policies so popular that their citizens call off massive protest demonstrations count as being unsettled.

The article also notes that Bolivia's two main customers for natural gas, Brazil and Argentina, were initially alarmed. However, in a meeting held Thursday between the leadership of those two countries, Bolivia and Venezuela, the article says that they moved past their starting concerns and "all agreed to get behind Bolivia and support it as it tried to correct the woes of neo-liberalism." And that counts as unsettling the region because ... help me out here?

Morales may be one of Hugo Chavez' political friends, but he got elected on promises to nationalize the country's resources and is carrying them out, to the applause of his voters. Thanks to a pointer from a comment in this post about Bolivia's nationalization, this Counterpunch article can be seen to assert that Morales' key constituencies have been dismayed by his cabinet choices, so it was high time for him to start satisfying his base if he was ever going to. Oh, democracy.

Posted by natasha at May 5, 2006 08:16 PM | International | Technorati links |