Bolivia to raise its prices for gas

Bolivia wants Brazilians and other customers to pay more for its natural gas, a Bolivian diplomat said Thursday following his country's hydrocarbons nationalization decree.

Pedro Gumucio said at a press conference that an increase in natural gas prices is fair because of the spiraling prices of petroleum and other commodities abroad. Brazil is the chief customer for Bolivian gas.

"Twenty-four months ago, petroleum prices were between US$40 and US$43 (Ђ32 and Ђ34) a barrel. Today they stand at US$75 (Ђ59) a barrel. You can draw your own conclusions," he said.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was attending an emergency regional summit in Argentina on Thursday to discuss the nationalization. He noted that Brazil has contract rights involving Bolivia's natural gas industry.

Meanwhile, the head of Bolivia's state-owned oil company was quoted Thursday as saying that his country was tired of receiving "leftover crumbs" for its hydrocarbons.

"As owners, we will decide how much the Bolivian government should receive and how much foreign companies should get," said Jorge Alvarado, president of Yacimientos Petroliferos Fiscales Bolivianos, in an interview published by the Folha de Sao Paulo newspaper.

On Monday, Bolivian President Evo Morales decreed the nationalization and gave foreign energy companies such as Petrobras, Brazil's government-owned oil company, 180 days to re-negotiate and sign new contracts giving control of the industry to the Bolivian state.

"The owner of a house for rent chooses his tenant and will decide how much will be paid," Alvarado said. "This is what we are going to do because up until now all we have received has been leftover crumbs."

On Wednesday Sergio Gabrielli, the president of Petrobras, said that Petrobras has suspended all investments in Bolivia and would reject any price increase resulting from the nationalization.

Petrobras is one of Bolivia's biggest gas producers and one of the largest foreign investors in that country.

Under a contract signed in the 1990s, Brazil buys up to 30 million cubic meters per day of natural gas from that Andean nation where Petrobras has invested some US$1.6 billion (Ђ1.3 billion) in Bolivia in both gas and oil development, reports AP.

O.Ch.