April 19, 2007

The Fight Over Natural Gas

MABB © ®

What is going on in Bolivia? A lot! As you can see.

Conflict over Bolivia natgas field escalates
AlertNet - Apr 19 8:19 AM
Source: Reuters (Refiles April 18 story to correct technical problem) (Updates throughout, adds byline, changes dateline) By David Mercado YACUIBA, Bolivia, April 18 (Reuters) - Protesters demanding a share of
Bolivia Resumes Gas Supply to Argentina After Deadly Clash
Bloomberg.com - Apr 18 9:41 AM
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Bolivia resumed natural gas transmission to Argentina after soldiers killed a protester while suppressing a riot near a pipeline operated by Royal Dutch Shell Plc, the country's Hydrocarbons Chamber said.
Bolivia to Auction Tin From Seized Glencore Smelter (Update1)
Bloomberg.com - Apr 18 8:55 AM
April 18 (Bloomberg) -- Bolivia plans to sell tin from a plant seized two months ago from Swiss commodity trader Glencore International AG as the metal trades at the highest in at least 18 years.
Conflict over Bolivia natgas field escalates
AlertNet - Apr 18 8:04 PM
Source: Reuters (Updates throughout, adds byline, changes dateline) By David Mercado YACUIBA, Bolivia, April 18 (Reuters) - Protesters demanding a share of taxes from a large Bolivian natural
Demonstrators take police as hostage in Bolivia over gas dispute
People's Daily - Apr 18 7:52 PM
Hundreds of protesters held 40 policemen hostage in southern Bolivia on Wednesday in a dispute over gas field royalties, the state Bolivian News Agency reported.

The gist is, there is a boundary dispute between two provinces within the Tarija department. The two provinces are O'Connor and Gran Chaco (the region where the Chaco War was fought against Paraguay). This piece of land, called Chimeo, holds one of the biggest natural gas camps in that department, the Margarita camp. Apparently, both regions have a claim to the area.

This dispute began in May 2005, when O'Connor filed a petition to the regional government, the Prefecture, to delineate the boundaries. The head of government, the Prefect, sought to remove himself from the problem because of conflicts of interests. The Mayor of Yacuiba, a town in Gran Chaco, was his relative. So, he relayed the problem to his General Secretary. This time, the Gran Chaco province did not feel comfortable with the 'judge' and asked the central government to move the case to another jurisdiction. So, the General Secretary, in view of the problems passed the case to the central government. The government in La Paz refused three times, until recently when the protests in the provinces became more serious. Yesterday, it decided to give in to the demands of Gran Chaco and relay the case to another jurisdiction. That decision promptly provoked protest in O'Connor.

So, in the last few days, there were violent confrontations in the different towns. The most violent, with one death, was in Yacuiba. In the mean time, the gas pipelines to Argentina are in danger to be shut down and the Pocitos and San Antonio camps were taken over.

The graph is from La Razón.


Tambopaxi said...

This whole thing is interesting for an outsider like me, who doesn't know/appreciate all of the political dynamics in Bolivia.


1. The Morales government doesn't seem to be exercising strong leadership in resolving the issue of oilfield control, between Gran Chaco and O'Connor (I'm sure this name has an interesting provenance) provinces. Why is this?

2. I understand that the Prefect of one of the provinces in question has/had a relationship with Goni. I would have thought that Morales would take this opportunity to try and get rid of the guy. As far as I can see, this hasn't happened. Why not?

3. More and more I'm getting the impression that the Morales government is weak in the hinterlands (campo). Is this impression correct?

miguel said...

Morales and his government is cought up in a web of politics. The most important reason why he wants to stay away of the trouble is because it is a hot issue. Also, since it is a hot issue, it would be best suited for his political opponent Cossio (the prefect of Tarija).

The results should be a guide. No matter what the government does, it is wrong. It looks as though it is favoring the one side. It is a losing position to be in.

That is why they don't want to touch it. I think.

The government tried to push the problems in the hands of the Tarija prefect, Cossio. Cossio was the president of the lower chamber in Congress during the Mesa times. It would have been an ideal situation to rest support for Cossio. However, Cossio had a good excuse. He removed himself from the problem by disclosing that he had a relative as Mayor in one of the sides. He did not want to seem partial.

The Morales government is weak in the country side, in some places. The weakest part of support comes from the Santa Cruz department. The Tarija country side is also a weak point. However, nationally, MAS' support in the hinterlands is relatively solid.

Of course, that is based on the last elections numbers. It may be changing as we speak.

Tambopaxi said...

OK, thanks, Miguel.

In my ignorance, I hadn't realized that you could blow up (expand) the newspaper page with the photos and map; I have now. Nice little summary!

What a mess, and it gives me the sense that, in many ways, the central government is pretty weak if it can't resolve and/or control disputes and violence between provinces. At the same time, as you say, Cossio has pulled nice trick, washing his hands of the problem and passing it off to La Paz, and apparently, the next Department over, Potosi (assuming I understand this correctly). T

Anonymous said...

I am reminded of a political cartoon from the era of military-coup-of-the month, which stated that the problem with Bolivia was anarchy- in the armed forces. The more things change, the more they stay the same. Unfortunately, the long-standing primary ways to resolve political disputes in Bolivia are based not on reason and impartial law, but personal whim and force. You don’t agree with something? Start a coup. Corral a mob to block a highway or to surround public officials. In this respect, Bolivia is no different today than it was 30 or 50 years ago.

miguel said...

Unfortunately, you are quite right in many aspects. Bolivia has been an unstable country most of its history.

I am afraid a culture of violent activism has been created throughout history.

It sounds redundant, but Bolivia is a complex problem. One worth studying, though.

And sorry, I just neglected to say that one could click on the graph. But, I am glad you liked it.