Bolivia's President-elect Evo Morales declared yesterday, on International Workers' Day, that Bolivia would nationalize Bolivia's Oil & Gas companies if foreign firms do not "agree to give Bolivia's state oil company oversight of production and a majority of their revenue generated in Bolivia". Morales gave those companies six months to make their choice.
Already soldiers of the Bolivian Army have moved in to secure the fields and gas/oil plants and refineries. The event being this fresh in the making, I have not read of any government's response to the issue. An Exxon Mobil spokesman did have a statement though. Apparently, the Corporation is "monitoring the situation". They better be! They're about to lose the second largest oil and gas reserves in South America!Morales faces a situation not unlike that of Hamas; wanted by the people but loathed by the powers that be. In his campaign, he promised voters that he would ensure Bolivians and Bolivia got their fair share of oil and gas revenues. His announcement of possible nationalization is no surprise either; he had also mentioned, on several occasions, that nationalization is a strong option and possibility.
The United States was unhappy with his becoming President of Bolivia for another reason; in his election campaign, Morales promised Coca farmers that he would not attempt to destroy their crops. Coca farming generates a large share of farmers' income in Bolivia, and as head of the Coca Farmers' Union for a couple of years, Morales (naturally) pushed forward this item during his campaign. For those that don't know, the Coca plant is what cocaine (in addition to many, many other legal products) is manufactured from. While the idea seems ridiculous, he did vow to "crack down" on cocaine manufacturers; a promise that the US, the long-time driving force behind Coca-farm eradication, did not embrace with open arms.
I don't see what the problem is. It's Bolivian gas and oil. If the bulk of the revenues are not going to the country (and its people) that has the gas and oil, who else should it go to? It's not as if Bolivia is a rich country – it most definitely is not. Brazil, who has the largest stake in the Bolivian gas and oil industry, as well as being the largest dependant on Bolivian gas, might raise red flags, though it is doubtful that Morales would want to anger his largest market.
But Morales doesn't want to stop there.
In the same Washington Post article (linked to above), it is mentioned that Morales's Attorney General, Pedro Gareca, has already opened criminal cases (a month and a half ago) against three former Presidents and a whopping eight former Energy Ministers for (according to The Post) "Alleged wrongdoing in drawing up and signing contracts with foreign oil companies". So, Morales is out for blood. Living in a country where many former Ministers are tried after the end of their terms in office, this move seems only natural to me.
What is strange is that none of the news media appears to criticize this; Morales is obviously satisfying a latent hunger to see justice served in a country, like many of its developing brethren, where justice was merely a dream.
Maybe not all real-life dramas have Syriana-like endings when the United States is involved? Well good! Bolivians deserve a happy ending… I'm just waiting for ours.
And that's the way I see it.