January 29, 2006

Evo Morales, the Staunchest Ally of Hugo Chavez?

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As it turns out, it might be that Evo Morales is not the staunchest ally of Hugo Chavez in Bolivia after all. That title would have to go to the new Energy Minister, Andres Soliz Rada. Thanks to an interview conducted by the online magazine Green Left Weekly before the December 18 national elections, Soliz Rada spells out his hopes and beliefs on Bolivia. Moreover, he talks about how important it is that Chavez's plans are backed by the Bolivian government.

Below you'll find an excerpt of the interview:

Yet Bolivia’s gas, Soliz Rada said, can help resolve this issue, “because finally there is an idea” — the nationalisation of Bolivia’s gas — “that can unite the dispersed social sectors”. The national mobilisations in May-June of 2005 not only threw out a president, but were the first truly united mobilisations of the social movements, from the east to the west, behind the demand for nationalisation. “Rather than demanding on behalf of Aymaras, Quechuas, Guaranis or for the people of Oruro or Chimore, they are now in agreement that the gas has to be recuperated for Bolivia. It is a banner that unites Bolivians.”

Bolivia’s gas “also has an extraordinary importance in external politics, because Bolivia could participate in [Venezuelan President] Hugo Chavez’s idea of forming a consortium of state petroleum companies in South America — with Petrobras [from Brazil], Enarsa [from Argentina], YPBF from Bolivia and PDVSA [from Venezuela]” — which Chavez has named Petrosur.

“The state companies, united, could confront the grand consortiums such as Repsol from Spain, Amoco from the United States and British Petroleum. It could become a strong force of defence [against these corporations], and importantly we could begin to elaborate a development plan of big projects, of big dimensions for South America as a whole.

“The division of our peoples is a permanent form of domination. This idea of division has been overturned by Chavez. Just as internally the issue of gas can be a point of unity for Bolivians, there is now a point of unity for Latin America ... which could generate serious concerns for the US, because you are generating a resistance of the national states.” According to Soliz Rada, this resistance will be strengthened through Petrosur, as the issue of energy “will not be brokered by the US, but rather negotiated among the South American states”.

Together, South America has around 15% of the world’s energy resources, making Petrosur a potentially powerful player in global politics. “It is a project that will be very difficult, but I am convinced that we must go in that direction”, added Soliz Rada.

The first steps were taken the day after Morales’ inauguration. PDVSA opened an office in La Paz on January 23. That same day, an agreement was signed by Chavez and Morales for cooperation between PDVSA and YPBF to develop projects for infrastructure, processing and refining of gas and petroleum.

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