Bolivia nationalises oil and gas resources

Relatives and widows of asbestos-related cancer victims outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday afternoon
Relatives and widows of asbestos-related cancer victims outside the Houses of Parliament yesterday afternoon

BOLIVIA’S President Morales has gone from having a conference last week in Havana with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, which established a trade group free from US capitalist domination, to yesterday issuing a decree imposing state control on Bolivian gas and oil fields.

Bolivia has the second biggest natural gas assets in South America, estimated to be 54 trillion cubic feet of gas.

No sooner was the decree signed, than the Bolivian army went into action and took the fields over causing massive rejoicing in all the working class areas of the capital, La Paz, over a president who was actually carrying out his election pledges.

His decree has shocked the ruling classes of the US UK and France whose Mobile Exxon Corporation, British Gas and Total companies have huge investments in Bolivian energy.

It has also shaken Brazil’s Petrobras oil company and Spain’s Repsol YPF, who are also very heavily involved, and cooled what had been cordial relations between president Morales and Brazil’s ‘socialist’ president, Lula.

Speaking at an oilfield on May Day, in the south of the country, Morales declared: ‘The pillage of our natural resources by foreign companies is over. The time has come, the awaited day, a historic day in which Bolivia retakes absolute control of our natural resources.’

He promised: ‘Tomorrow it will be the mines, the forest resources and the land’.

The May Day decree means that private energy companies will have to sell a controlling stake of 51 per cent to the Bolivian government and renegotiate all contracts within six months.

At the largest gas fields, royalty payments will increase from 50 per cent to 82 per cent during this period. Bolivia’s state-owned energy company, YPBF, will take control of the production, transport, refinery and sale of the gas.

A spokesman for Petrobras, one of the largest foreign investors, controlling 14 per cent of Bolivia’s gas fields called the decree a ‘hostile’ action.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva met Petrobras President Jose Sergio Gabrielli and government ministers for urgent talks yesterday. Spain’s Repsol YPF and the Spanish government have also expressed ‘deep concern’ at the move. The US Exxon Mobil Corporation said it was ‘closely monitoring’ the situation.

Oil and gas prices are on the rise over the whole planet. The noose will now be further tightened around the neck of the major capitalist states by the state taking a controlling interest in Bolivian gas and oil, mirroring the process that is taking place in oil rich Venezuela, where Hugo Chavez wants all foreign oil companies to submit to state control.

There are already loud voices being heard in the United States to the effect that all of the furore over Iraq, and now Iran, has left the US partially sighted as to what is really happening in Uncle Sam’s traditional South American backyard, where Cuba’s isolation has been ended, and where a left nationalist group of Castro, Chavez and Morales has been established that now has access to considerable oil and gas wealth.

The imperialist powers and their agents can be expected to mobilise to defend their interests in South America.

The US plan for a Free Trade Area of the Americas, dominated by the US dollar, can clearly only be established over the graves of the masses of the anti-imperialist nations, and also by the destruction of the US trade unions who are now under heavy attacks.

In fact, the US workers are now also on the march, as the huge May Day strikes demanding the legalisation of illegal immigrants prove, along with the struggles of auto workers to defend their jobs, health care and pensions.

The defence of the revolutionary peoples of South America requires the overthrow of American capitalism, as does the interests of the US workers.

The way forward to carry out this task is through the building of sections of the International Committee of the Fourth International all over the Americas to unite and mobilise the working class to overthrow US imperialism and its local agents throughout the Americas, through socialist revolutions.