Nationalization of hydrocarbons in Bolivia

Nationalization of hydrocarbons in Bolivia

By Vicent Boix

In the development index of the United Nations Development Program, Bolivia ranked 113 in 2005. The number of doctors per 100,000 inhabitants was 73.

Nationalization of hydrocarbons in Bolivia.
Some facts, figures and thoughts


In the development index of the United Nations Development Program, [1] Bolivia ranked 113 in 2005. Spain ranked 21. Spain exceeded 79. Adult illiteracy affected 13.5% of the population of the South American country, while it did not reach 3% in Spain. The number of doctors per 100,000 inhabitants was 73 in Bolivia, compared to 320 in Spain, 549 in the United States, or 591 in Cuba. Deliveries attended by medical personnel accounted for 65% of the total in Bolivia, 99% in the United States and Argentina, and 100% in Cuba, Uruguay and Chile. Malnutrition affected 21% of the Bolivian population between 2000-2002, while this percentage was 5% in Mexico and 4% in Costa Rica. The infant mortality rate in Bolivia was 53 deaths for every 1,000 births in 2003, compared to 4 in Spain, 6 in Cuba and 7 in the United States.

The 2005 “Social Panorama” [2] report, issued by the Economic Commission for Latin America (ECLAC), discovered with data from 2002 that between 20% and 30% of the Bolivian population did not enjoy an adequate source of water. . This same percentage was applicable among young people over 18 years old, but with less than 5 years in studies. More than 40% of society was overcrowded, did not have an adequate excrement disposal system, and the floors of their houses were dirt. Among children aged 7 to 12, more than 40% did not attend any educational establishment. And between 30 and 40% of Bolivian society had no health service or electricity.

In 2002 and according to the same source, [3] 62.4% of the population was below the poverty line and 37.1% were indigent, while the average for the continent was 44 and a 19.4% respectively.

With data from the Central Bank of Bolivia, [4] the external debt in 2005 was 4,961.6 million dollars. 300 million more than in 1996. GDP for 2004 was 8,758 million dollars according to the National Institute of Statistics. [5] With 2004 data, the external debt accounted for more than 57% of GDP.

This chaotic and unequal situation has resulted in numerous mobilizations that ended with the governments of Sanchéz de Lozada in 2003 and Carlos Mesa in 2005. At this juncture, Evo Morales won the elections in December 2005 with 54% of the votes.

Repsol - YPF

In information obtained on its website, [6] the Spanish-Argentine multinational obtained net profits of 3,120 million euros in 2005, thanks in part to the rise in oil prices. This represented an increase of 29.4% compared to 2004.

According to a report by Intermon-Oxfam, [7] since the privatizations and capitalizations of 1996, companies established in Bolivia have reported 18% royalties to the government, in those fields that were not in production before that year (95 % of reserves currently). This tax is the lowest in the region and according to the Ministry of Economic Development, excessively favorable conditions for companies will prevent the state from earning 3.152 billion dollars between 1996-2006. Amount equivalent to 63.5% of the external debt. In fact, only the existing gas reserves would allow paying 13 times the external debt and 130 the annual public investment.

Before 1996, the state company YPFB contributed to the state an average of 400 million dollars a year, that is, more than 30% of the collection of the National General Treasury (TGN). In 2001 this figure fell to less than 200 million and to 12% of TGN's income, despite the increase in production experienced. At REPSOL level and according to The reason, the contribution in 2002 of the largest company owned by the multinational was 0.14% of the TGN. From 2001 to 2002 this value fell by more than 76%.

José María Vera Villacián, Director of Studies at Intermon-Oxfam, states in an article in Five days that REPSOL has a dominant position in the Bolivian hydrocarbon market with 30% of the total sector in 2001. It indicates that company executives have stated that for every dollar invested in Bolivia they have earned 10, when the optimal profitability in This sector can be from 1 to 5 and even from 1 to 3. In addition, the privatizations that began in 1996 in favor of foreign companies have prioritized exports, for which the public has been forced to buy gas at international prices. that in many cases has been prohibitive for the poorest sector of society.

According to this article, the jobs created are minimal and exploration and exploitation activities have generated numerous and serious environmental and social impacts, as they take place in natural parks and lands inhabited by indigenous populations. The compensation to the local communities for the damage inflicted -in the words of Vera Villacián- has been “… voluntary, economically irrelevant, and the first analyzes on the quality of the water in these areas show worrying results about its impact on health”.[8]

The environment is so neglected that Intermon-Oxfam has denounced that an Environmental Impact Assessment Study, on an activity within a natural park, consisted of only 4 sheets. Elsewhere, the study was carried out by a North American consultancy, copying identical paragraphs from other evaluations. [9] The scant concern in everything outside the pure production process has also led to tragic consequences. The organizations Nizkor team Y Rights Human Rights reported, in June 2005, the death of two people who burned themselves in the vicinity of a REPSOL well with possible gas leaks. [10] All these data, together with the discovery of an alleged case of oil smuggling, give a minimal idea of ​​the obscurity and comfortable business trajectory of REPSOL and other transnationals in Bolivia.

Nationalization and the chicken coop explodes

In July 2004, more than 89% of the citizens supported the nationalization of hydrocarbons through a referendum. The Mesa government looked the other way and the decision was never implemented. In May 2005, a new law raised the different taxes on private companies, from 18% before to 50% and not in all fields. This position proved insufficient for civil society, despite the fact that the state obtained 460 million dollars that year.

The so-called nationalization initiated by Morales, aims to achieve 82% of the profits for the state in two large wells. The rest of the fields would continue with the existing 50%. Besides, it has nationalized some shares to regain control over some companies capitalized 10 years ago. All these measures are subject to possible negotiations between the parties. In the words of Vice President Álvaro García Linera, this new law is intended to raise an extra 300 million dollars, to add a total of 780 per year. [11]

While this was happening in Bolivia, in other countries the alarm was going off. Spain has led a shameful, frozen and distorted attack at the political and media level. We have seen and read politicians of all colors, columnists and midday socialists, criticize Morales on behalf of the interests of Spain, when REPSOL is a private company, which, like others, has obtained good profits thanks to the price increase international oil. Most of them tighten their belts and they fill their pockets. REPSOL is made up of national and foreign shareholders, and in any case, the government is defending the interests of a microscopic percentage of Spaniards.

How sad it has been to listen to Zapatero, Moratinos, Solana, Rajoy or some voices from the Episcopal Conference station. One Socialists and the other Catholics. Immune to the tragedy of the Bolivian people. Complacent with the plundering of resources. Aggressive before the exercise of sovereignty and justice of a massacred, impoverished and hungry people. They have rarely been seen to point out and expose the serious inequality and behavior of transnational companies. On the contrary, they brand Morales a populist and affirm that he will ruin the country, as if the country was not already ruined. Curious country Spain, where Morales is accused while the Duchess of Alba or Bill Gates are awarded.

ECLAC said in its report "Social Panorama" of 2004 that " Improving income distribution is an ethical imperative that would also allow increasing the growth rate. The poor distribution of income and, above all, the poor distribution of wealth have negative consequences ...”[12] Morales has taken the first step and time will tell the rest.

More from REPSOL.

According to the multinational, in the first quarter of 2006 it obtained a net profit of 862 million euros. Amount that represented an increase of 8.2% compared to the same quarter of the previous year. [13] It should be remembered that during 2005 the multinational's net profit already amounted to 3,120 million euros, which represented an increase of 29.4% compared to 2004. [14] In data provided by company sources to the Madrid daily El Mundo, the profits obtained in Bolivia in 2005 represented 2.5% of the total. [15] A simple rule of three reveals that it was about 78 million euros.

Looking at these numbers, one can glimpse the type of predatory enterprise the Bolivian people are facing. Acceding to the skeletal claims that the Morales government is pursuing would not be a headache for the company. Even if the profits were fully and philanthropically ceded to Bolivian society, REPSOL would continue to be in good financial health.

If what is distressing is that other countries follow the path that Chávez and Morales took, the unknowns to clear would be the causes that led to it. Tearing one's clothes, hitting head against the wall and throwing diplomatic hints, is nothing more than a maneuver to wring out the bulge, distort the facts and confuse the public.

The Mapuches in Chile are on a hunger strike because ENDESA has usurped their lands, not on a whim. The fact that Nicaraguans and Dominicans have renamed Unión Fenosa as “Unión Mafiosa” and “Unión Penosa” is not due to a Caribbean linguistic eccentricity. And the rejection of REPSOL in Bolivia has been evident and is not due to a hallucination of its people. The Intermon-Oxfam document entitled “Repsol YPF in Bolivia: an island of prosperity in the midst of poverty”, shows actions and attitudes that no Spanish would tolerate. Unilateral decision making without social participation or facts that would fit in by now distant times. On this aspect, the Guaraní People's Association stated in 2000: “ We do not want the oil companies to carry out plans in our territory without the participation of our organization, that they divide us into our communities with small gifts, that they lie to us, deceive us, run us over, scare us off the bush animals, knock down our trees and contaminate us. ". Intermon-Oxfam specified that reference was made "... the agreement that the company had reached two years earlier with Guaraní leaders, which consisted of an endowment of 23 continuous band radios for the district." [16]

Doctors Mundi carried out a pilot study that is mentioned by Intermon-Oxfam, on the impact of oil activity on the health of the people of Chaco (Bolivia). The conclusions are illuminating. Regarding the presence of contaminants in drinking water, the report first clarifies the great difference between the limits established in Spanish and Bolivian legislation. Based on this nuance, it is noted with respect to the analyzed samples that “… none of them is suitable for human consumption according to Spanish and European regulations . However, If we take the Bolivian regulations as a reference, we observe that 7 of the 10 samples taken are within the limits allowed for human consumption .” Still, Doctors Mundi concludes that “… there are problems with the quality of the water in practically all the points where the samples have been taken. until quality is ensured, this water should not be used for I use as drinking water as is currently the case, since over time can seriously affect the health of the population".[17]

The soap opera BBVA begins.

BBVA reached a profit of 3,806 million euros in 2005. This translates into an increase of 30.2% compared to 2004, as indicated on its own website. [18] REPSOL and BBVA, together, add 6,926 million euros in net profits for 2005. Bolivia's GDP was 6,811.97 million euros in 2004. [19]

Morales has issued an ultimatum for BBVA and Zurich to return "their" shares to the Bolivian government. Pedro Solbes, minister of economy and "" $ ociali $ ta "" with four quotation marks, says in Cadena SER that this is "unacceptable". The European People's Party, in clear contempt, leaves Parliament in a Morales appearance. Carlos Iturgáiz, a Catholic and popular MEP, calls the Bolivian president a "pirate" and "individual". It peripherals on the COPE chain, the station of an Episcopal Conference that deals with the merchants of the temple. [20]

Alberto Montero, Professor of Applied Economics at the University of Malaga, unravels this new chapter and explains how the public hydrocarbon companies were privatized. A first block corresponding to 50% of the shares that "... the Bolivian government tendered internationally and they were acquired by a series of transnational companies in exchange, not for their nominal value - whatever that might be - but only for a series of investment commitments ...". In the case of Andina, this 50% is owned by REPSOL. Of the other half of the shares, 2% belong to the workers, and the remaining 48% “… It was distributed among the Bolivian population of legal age (21 years) as of December 1995. With these actions, a non-contributory fund called the Collective Capitalization Fund was created for an initial amount of 1671 million dollars that would be privately managed by the Pension Fund Administrators (AFP). In return, and derived from the benefits of their management, these Administrators were obliged to pay a benefit called Bono Solidaridad (BONOSOL) that would be granted in annual payments "for life" to all Bolivian beneficiaries once they reached 65 years of age. " . Therefore, what the Morales government has done is "... request two of those Administrators, BBVA and Zurich, to transfer guardianship, not ownership - because it never belonged to them - ...".[21]

The business must be attractive and hence the whining. 98% of the shares of a Bolivian company are partially owned or managed by Spanish companies. While Bolivia is hungry and impoverished. Morales does not go through the hoop and the Spanish government, opposition and media initiate the pantomime, defending private interests and forgetting about authentic national problems such as precarious work, the total crisis of the agricultural sector or the brickwork Of the territory. Here Zapatero and Rajoy sneak away. Has anyone seen them, for example, take firm action to make housing a right and not a privilege? Well, no. Citizens continue with the mortgage around their neck and something else butterfly.

International cooperation

The Carolina Foundation and the Sociological Research Center carried out in September 2005 a survey entitled "Cooperation and Latin America." Regarding the role of companies in Latin America, the interviewees believe that they should invest more in the continent. They believe that corporate actions favor the image of Spain and bilateral relations. However, when the questions are limited to the economic impact, the respondents overwhelmingly believe that companies They are benefiting from the poverty of those countries ". When questioning who benefits more from the presence of Spanish companies in Latin America, 57.6% of those consulted say that the companies, 8.2% the countries that host them, 5.8% the Spanish economy , 11.3% equally to all, 2% to no one and 22.2% did not know or answer. [22]

The results are a bit contradictory. It is believed that companies benefit even at the cost of poverty, but nevertheless it is believed that investments should increase and what is more strange, it is believed that the image of Spain is strengthened.

Three years working with a Spanish NGO and living in popular neighborhoods in Nicaragua, they tell me that the image of Spain is seriously deteriorating due to the abuses of certain multinationals. In fact, when people complain and angrily criticize the arbitrariness of a company, they usually do so using the term "the Spanish"; instead of giving the multinational company a name and surname. When consulting colleagues from other countries, this opinion is generalized, because there is a fairly consolidated view that the landing of these corporations represents a kind of second colonization.

On the contrary, people have a much more favorable opinion of those NGOs that carry out and finance development projects. Obviously it is not the constant, but it is quite common when the work is carried out with respect and its action has a positive impact on the beneficiaries, because among other things the project has arisen and is being developed according to their needs, concerns and opinions. It is not the objective of the article to unravel the work of the NGOs. What would be interesting is to ask what is the use of the work carried out by many organizations in Bolivia, for example, if later certain transnationals are accepted and allowed to roam freely and suffocate the state. An NGO or a cooperation agency builds a hospital, but the plundering of resources and capital prevents its own government from building more, providing maintenance to existing ones and adapting better services. Obviously this is not the magic formula that will provide the long-awaited well-being to the Bolivian people. Therefore, now more than ever we must respect and observe how this first step carried out by Morales develops. And time will tell the rest.







] "Repsol YPF in Bolivia: an island of prosperity in the midst of poverty", May 2004, at

] VERA, J.M .: "Repsol and Bolivia, marriage of convenience", in Five days, Madrid, Espanya, April 1, 2006, at

] "Repsol YPF in Bolivia: an island of prosperity in the midst of poverty", May 2004, at


] ABI: "García Linera asks Bolivians to defend the nationalization of hydrocarbons", in The times, La Paz, Bolivia, May 1, 2006, at





] pag. 29 and 30.

] pag. 38 and 40.


] and 1 euro = 1.2856 dollars (5/16/2006)


] MONTERO, A .: “But, did you think Evo Morales was not serious?”, May 16, 2006, at

] pag. 22-24

Video: Bolivia: gas naturalization has had a positive impact (June 2021).