South American leaders to study Bolivia’s decision to nationalize gas reserves

Presidents of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela asked Bolivia’s Evo Morales for an urgent meeting to discuss his determination. 

Presidents of Argentina, Brazil and Venezuela meet on Thursday with the Bolivian leader, Evo Morales, in northern Argentina, to dicuss the decision of La Paz to nationalize its energy sector, a determination that has sparked angry protests among multinational oil & gas corporations operating in the Andean nation. The summit comes as Argentina and Brazil highly depend on the Bolivian vast natural gas resources, which are currently exploited by multinational corporations as the Spanish-Argentine Repsol YPF and the Brazilian Petrobras.

After meeting with the Spanish CEO of Repsol in Buenos Aires, Argentine president Nestor Kirchner called on an urgent summit with Mr. Morales. Brazil’s Lula did the same, soon after Petrobras made public its concerns on the Bolivian decision.

Petrobras, Repsol and the other multinational groups operating in the South American country are upset with the Bolivian authorities because they were not consulted about the nationalization of the energy sector. These companies, as well as other foreign investors, said they will study whether they will continue or not putting their money in Bolivia.

Neither Argentina nor Brazil commented what are they going to bring to the table, but according to their last moves it becomes clear that both leaders will express the concerns of the multinational corporations about the issue.

In an attempt to balance the summit, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, announced that he will take part of the meeting in the Argentine city of Iguazu. Chavez, one of Morales' main foreign allies, has openly backed the nationalization of hydrocarbons in Bolivia, calling the decision “historical”.

“Venezuela and Bolivia have enough gas to guarantee energy to all South America for over 100 years. South American countries should not be concerned since we have energy for all,” said Chavez after announcing the meeting with Morales. The Venezuelan leader is visiting with a group of oil industry technicians to receive details of the nationalization plan and to consider possible aid, Bolivia’s government spokesman Alex Contreras told reporters.

The European Union has also expressed its concerns over the Bolivian decision, as the Spanish Repsol and the French Total have important investments “at risk” in the country.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov